Celtic aiming for Europe after Christmas as they prepare for Feyenoord

The Scottish champions will take on an in-form Feyenoord side in their group opener on Tuesday night.

Celtic are aiming to still be in Europe after Christmas as they prepare to play in-form Dutch champions Feyenoord in Rotterdam.

The Hoops will need to finish in the top two places of their group, which also includes Lazio and Atletico Madrid, to stay in the Champions League, with a third place finish meaning they will drop into the Europa League.

But manager Brendan Rodgers insists “anything is possible” on the eve of their opening game that will take place on Tuesday night.

Speaking to the press on Monday he said: “Any team at this level is always very difficult, I don’t think there is an easy game here and obviously being Dutch champions and the great history of this country of producing teams and players, so we know the challenge.

“But we are looking forward to it as the first game of six so let’s see where it takes us.

“I think success for us as a club is to be in Europe after Christmas and that’s what our aim is, whatever competition that is in, as long as we are still in Europe.

“But anything is possible in the group, and we look to be competitive in all the games.

“People ask you to forecast what it is you want to do and what you want to achieve but I think that how we want the play the game with our competitive spirit, that’s important in the Champions League because you are playing against top teams.

“We have seen already this season that the spirit of this team will never be broken.

“You have to have that at this level when you are a team like ourselves coming into it, when people want to dismiss you in the tournament.

“It’s about being competitive, you have to work very hard, you have to work very smart, and let’s see where it takes us.”

Rodgers was not one to play defensively in Europe in his first spell as Celtic manager and predecessor Ange Postecoglou did not compromise any of his attacking principles last season as Celtic collected two points from a group campaign that promised more.

When asked whether he would adapt on European nights this season, the former Leicester manager said: “We are not at peak Celtic, I would say.

“We have got a long way to go before I think we will be where I am happy where I want us to be.

“However, what the players have shown is that flexibility.

“In terms of style, I don’t think there is a massive difference in terms of how the players have been asked to work. I just think it takes time and understanding for that to grow, and obviously of course it’s about players as well.

“You bring players back into the squad who are out of injured and of course the football can look different because you maybe have more dynamism and more flexibility and more movement.

“But stylistically at this level, we want to play the game to our DNA, which is be aggressive when we are attacking and have that conviction when we attack.

“And that all comes from when you defend. You have to have that collective responsibility and collective resilience and, if you have that in your defending, then you can look to show that in your attacking play.

“We know there’s times we are going to be under pressure, especially away from home, but of course we want to give Feyenoord a problem when we have the ball as well.”

The Celtic manager also revealed they have doubts over the fitness of on-loan Liverpool defender who only lasted 45 minutes in his debut for the club on Saturday.

Phillips was replaced by Gustaf Lagerbielke at half-time after injuring his ankle, although he was only scheduled to play an hour in his first appearance since his loan move.

Rodgers said: “Nat has rolled his ankle so we will just have to see on that.

“But other than that pretty much the guys are fine, they are working their way up to fitness. Apart from that they are OK.”

Liam Scales is Rodgers’ other recognised centre-back option with Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh and Maik Nawrocki missing through injury.

Scales has started each of the last three matches and helped Celtic keep clean sheets against St Johnstone, Rangers and Dundee.

Phillips was part of the squad as they trained at Celtic Park before flying out to the Netherlands on Monday afternoon.

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