Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers insists he will resist any temptation to rest key players this afternoon ahead of the daunting Champions League assignment against Manchester City next Wednesday.
Rodgers intends to field his strongest possible side in today’s Premiership fixture against Kilmarnock at Celtic Park, content they will have sufficient recovery time before facing Pep Guardiola’s English Premier League leaders.
“We have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the game against City, so we get an extra day recovery [compared to the first Champions League group game in Barcelona],” said Rodgers. “The most important game for us is the next one so we will be all out to get a result at home against Kilmarnock. Hopefully we can fill the stadium, put on a performance and give the supporters a good win. From that, we will recover and get ready for the next one.”
Rodgers is determined to succeed on all fronts domestically in his first season at Celtic, as underlined by the strong side he selected for Wednesday’s Betfred Cup quarter-final against League 1 side Alloa.
“We made five changes but it was a strong team,” he added. “Sometimes you can try and be too clever. I have been in situations before where you make nine, ten, 11 changes and then the team that are winning has lost rhythm and you lose flow in your game.
“I wanted to give Alloa respect and give the competition respect and to show my players the intent. The League Cup isn’t a second-rate trophy, it is the first trophy available and we want to win it.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, is looking forward to crossing managerial swords for the first time with Kilmarnock boss Lee Clark. The two 43-year-olds will be renewing combat which first began at youth international level.
“I’ve met Lee at various times through the years but we go way back to when I was an under-15 Northern Ireland international,” recalled Rodgers. “He played for England against us at Carrow Road and scored a hat-trick when they battered us 4-0.
“At that time, when you played youth international games, you met up with the opposition after the game and you all went on the same bus to the local town hall and had a meal together.
“So he’d scored a hat-trick that night, getting three from midfield, playing opposite me! We were hopeless. Lee was a much better player than I ever was, that’s for sure.”