Celtic reaching Europa League final a ‘long, long, long way away’

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Brendan Rodgers reckons talk of Celtic reaching the Europa League final is premature, insisting that football is “totally different” to when the Hoops made it to the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville.

Rodgers’ side play their Europa League group opener against familiar foes Rosenborg on Thursday, after droppping out of the Champions League after they were defeated by AEK Athens.

Brendan Rodgers has played down talk of Celtic reaching the Europa League final. Picture: SNS Group

Brendan Rodgers has played down talk of Celtic reaching the Europa League final. Picture: SNS Group

But despite the many reports and stories of this Celtic team replicating Martin O’Neill’s side of 2003, Rodgers has urged caution.

The Parkhead boss told Celtic TV: “I see lots of stories and reports about us getting to the final. That’s a long, long, long way away.

“You only have to look at the teams and the calibre of club and financial resources in this competition, and that tells you it is a long, long way away.

“However, it’s the group stages and we have earned the right to be there and now we have to fight to show we can come out of [the group stage].”

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Celtic will come up against RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg as well as the Norwegian cracks in group B.

If they make it to the knockout stages, formidable opposition in the shape of Chelsea, AC Milan, Sevilla and the eight teams who drop down from the Champions League could lie in wait.

Rodgers insists that Celtic are no less ambitious than they were in 2003, but the Northern Irishman pointed out that the footballing landscape has changed dramatically in the 15 years in between.

“I just think in terms of where football was then - where it was for Celtic then - is totally different to where it’s at now,” he said.

“Celtic were taking players out of the top end of the Premier League. So that tells you where they were as a club in terms of finance and that sort of ambition really.

“Now, we are not any less ambitious but of course, the football economics have changed totally.”

Despite the changes, the Celtic manager is targeting another “run of great experiences in Europe” with six games against top opposition, starting with another success over Rosenborg.

Admitting that his side’s fitness levels are better than when the Hoops knocked the Norwegians out of the Champions League qualifiers, Rodgers added: “When we played them we were right at the beginning of our season.

“I would like to think we will be a bit sharper. But it will still be a difficult game for us. We hope there will be a great crowd. I would love the stands to be full for this competition.”