Celtic Champions League qualifiers leave my insides like a tumble drier but you have to find a way to think clearly – Brendan Rodgers


Brendan Rodgers appears to be a man who can handle the heat in the Champions League kitchen but looks can be deceiving when it gets to the hot point of qualification.

The Parkhead boss might be able to keep his cool when sides are throwing the sink at his Celtic side but did he admit these matches can make most feel like they are in the midst of a spin cycle.

The trick is to keep a lid on when all around you are losing theirs which is why Rodgers wants his men to stay calm in the eye of the Rosenborg storm tonight.

It would be nice to simply go out and wipe the floor with the Norwegians but the reality is it’s going to take a lot more elbow to brush aside this Trondheim club.

The clash needs cool heads – even if if feels like they are going through the ringer like the fraught play-off in Israel 12 months ago.

Manager Brendan Rodgers at full time in Israel with Erik Sviatchenko

Rodgers cut a relaxed figure on the eve of the game and said: “I just think you have to think clearly. Inside you can be like a tumble drier.

“In Beer Sheva last year there was no calmness. It was a test. My heartbeat was in my head that night. That night we couldn’t pass it – we just tried everything in that game.

“But that’s an example of nervousness from a team which, naturally, hasn’t qualified for a time, trying to find a new way of working.

“But there is night and day difference now. The best way to cope with it is have the ball, press hard, be aggressive and just do your best.

“We all know the consequence if we don’t. We want to win but we will do it as a process.”

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Rodgers wants calculation not just perspiration. But he knows it’s all too often the opposite in his adopted nation.

When the going gets tough in Scotland the natural instinct is to treat the ball like it’s live ammunition.

Rodgers wants his men to be explosive, not to blow up under pressure and look to get shot of the ball at the first opportunity.

He said: “That’s down to the nerve of the coach. It’s the nerve of the managers.

“If they get under pressure and they put that pressure onto the players then naturally the players will get rid of it.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers shakes hands with the Rosenborg players at the end of the match
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers shakes hands with the Rosenborg players at the end of the match

“But you want your players to pass it and there’s a difference between getting rid of it and passing it.

“In Scotland you like to get rid of it. Most teams, not every team, but that’s what you try to do.

“Then you wonder why, 20 years later, you haven’t qualified for a World Cup.

“So there has to be an ability for coaches to accept the pressure and get your teams to play.

“If not you’ll be crying every year, asking ‘why are we not technically good enough?’ Because you encouraged them to get rid of it and not pass it.”

That’s why Rodgers has been trying to hone his side as a European team from Scotland rather than a Scottish team in Europe.

Celtic's skipper Scott Brown collides with Rosenborg's Nicklas Bendtner
Celtic’s skipper Scott Brown collides with Rosenborg’s Nicklas Bendtner

He said: “As I said when I first came in, we are trying to create a game that is suited for European football at the top level, not just Scottish football, with all due respect. We are imposing a way of working that is for the highest level.

“For that, it is technique, speed and tactical awareness. You can see the players are improving with that all the time and the first leg was a great example.

“They had patience with the ball. Everyone wants to score but you can’t always do that in these games.

“You have to be streetwise. Teams are not just going to open up when they know you can
score goals.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the fans ahead of the clash with Rosenborg
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the fans ahead of the clash with Rosenborg

“You have to work the ball and work the spaces. You might only get couple of chances so you have to be ready to take them.

“That’s the maturity in the team. That will grow as they play more of these type of games.

“You have to come into these games and feel that, if you can impose your game, you can work well. They are never easy. And you can never come away from the pressure.

“You can’t run behind a tree and say there is no pressure because there is. But how you regulate the pressure is important. And how you distribute that flow of pressure. That’s for me to worry about in the players that I send out to play.”

Rodgers is no stranger to pressure. He had it daily at Liverpool and came through the nerve shredding play-offs with Swansea.

Celtic's Scott Brown shakes hands with Rosenborg's Nicklas Bendtner
Celtic’s Scott Brown shakes hands with Rosenborg’s Nicklas Bendtner

He said: “Play-off games always have a consequence to them. They are different of course. That game is a life-changing game.

“You have gone through a whole season. It’s a different preparation because your team have gone through their full season playing together, working together and they arrive at the end of the season in good condition.

“Here it’s physically difficult because there’s a mismatch physically. It’s a team halfway through their season against a team only starting. Both games have different types of pressure with big consequences at the end. The differences in them are very, very small but the consequences are huge.”

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It’s not just suppressing the pressure – it’s thriving on it that will be needed to get the job done in Norway tonight.

Rodgers said: “That’s why we are in it. We have to enjoy it and the pressure of planning to win. We don’t plan to disappoint, we plan to win.

“We come into a game where there is a wee bit at stake but we know we have the game to win, so we won’t worry about it.

“We won’t go into the battle and think about it night and day. We have to stay calm and we know as we play as a team we can get through.”

It might take a bit of tumble before Celtic are home and dry.

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