Brendan Rodgers has admitted that facing Hibernian at lunchtime today in the Betfred Cup semi-final only two-and-a-bit days after returning from a draining dusting-up by Bayern Munich in Germany will force preparations to concentrate on talking rather than the training field.
The Celtic manager and his squad only returned to Scotland from their Champions League excursion in the early hours of Thursday morning. It meant they only reconvened at Lennoxtown yesterday. Yet he refused to see only downsides in this packed programme, in light of the 3-0 thumping in midweek.
“That’s where it’s at, physically you have to cope with it,” said Rodgers of a crammed fixture list that will take his side to joint-leaders Aberdeen in the Premiership on Wednesday. “The only way you suffer is that there’s not so much coaching time so you have to find other ways to get your message across.
“There’s a beauty in it as well as I don’t give the players too much time to reflect on the negative result. Domestically, it’s going well for us, but we will have a brief review of it [the Munich loss] this morning and we will look more at it before we play Bayern next but that is the lever to move on. You never dwell on the past for too long and that’s always the key to how I work.
“[Football] is psychological and you need to come out of the battle at some point. It’s important with so many games. Most of the squad were free to relax on Thursday. Some of them may have been to see Little Mix last night with their daughters and then back in today.”
Rodgers refused to mix the tasks ahead for his team in the coming days, or ponder whether they represented the sternest test of the club’s domestic unbeaten run that currently stands at 59 games.
“We just focus on the next game. That is always the mantra,” he said. “There are obviously physical demands and psychological challenges as well. But my job is to prepare the players, keep them fresh, make sure the message is different. When you have many games and many talks, that is important for you as a manager. But I have a great group of players who are honest. We are humble when we win and honest when we get beaten.
“We lost the other night to an incredible opponent, there is no shame in that. We will find ways to be better. We want to be better at that level, but 15 or 16 months ago our challenge was to get into the Champions League. Now there is disappointment to lose away to Bayern Munich. So it’s a challenge. But it’s brilliant.”