Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic remain in a strong position to progress to the play-off round of the Champions League despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home to AEK Athens in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.
The Celtic manager was defiantly upbeat after the Scottish champions were unable to secure an advantage against their Greek counterparts who played for most of the second half with 10 men after Kostas Galanopoulos was sent off.
Callum McGregor gave Celtic a 17th-minute lead but Victor Klonaridis equalised for AEK just before half-time. The Greek champions are now favourites to win the tie but Rodgers is adamant his team can triumph in Athens next Tuesday night.
“Overall we are still in a really good position,” said Rodgers. “It was always going to be a difficult game for us over there but, after tonight and seeing how we played, it gives us great hope of going out there to get a result. I always felt we would have to go over there and score anyway, so it is very much still in the balance. It swings a bit to them because they’re at home, but we certainly know we have the quality to go and perform.
“Apart from that one error we made just before half time, when we were sat at 1-0, I would be talking about a fantastic performance. I’m still very proud of how we played.
“We were against a good side that can defend well and are strong. We threw everything at their end, attacking players. It’s just that final pass and that bit of luck sometimes where you need it to drop for you when there are so many bodies behind. It’s never easy. But the effort of the players and some of the quality we showed throughout the night was very good. We would have liked to have got the second goal but it didn’t come for us.”
Celtic will be without Kristoffer Ajer in the second leg. The Norwegian defender is suspended after picking up his third booking of the qualifying campaign last night.
After missing out on transfer target John McGinn when the midfielder completed his move from Hibs to Aston Villa, Celtic are expected to announce the signing of Australian international midfielder Daniel Arzani on a two-year loan deal from Manchester City today.
Former fans’ favourite Emilio Izaguirre is also poised to return to the club on a free transfer, one year after the Honduran left-back departed for Saudi Arabian club Al-Fahya.