Brendan Rodgers says he is relishing the challenge of more tough games for Celtic as they prepare to take on Hearts and Atletico Madrid next week.
The manager, who returned to Parkhead in the summer after a spell at Leicester, insists the Hoops have shown they are not to far off being a good team at Champions League level despite defeats to Feyenoord and Lazio in their first two games.
And he also has good memories of trips to Tynecastle and is excited about going there again on Sunday, albeit with fewer supporters than they are used to in the fixture.
Speaking to Celtic TV he said: “I’ve settled in really well and thoroughly enjoyed being back. I’ve enjoyed working with the players and it feels like we are at home.
“Steadily as we have gone through the season, the players have become more aware of what I’m asking from them and I’ve been pleased.
“Sometimes when you come into a club, and especially with the team having success before, there’s maybe a feeling there’s going to be a lot of change, but my observations were it didn’t need a lot.
“There were certain tweaks of what I wanted to see and sometimes that can get overthought.”
Using the 0-0 draw with St Johnstone in August as an example, he said: “I think in that there were lots of elements where there was too much thinking going on in the game.
“I like players not just to run but to think and run, but there was a bit more thinking going into it than what needed to be.
“From there, we were able to identify areas on the field and continue with the game model in how we’ve been working and from that point, the players have been brilliant.”
Rodgers also gave an update on the injury situation that is starting to ease a bit after a mini defensive crisis in their opening games that saw Liam Scales not only grab his chance to stake a claim in the starting line-up but also earn international recognition with Republic of Ireland.
Cameron Carter-Vickers also returned to the fold earlier than expected in the 2-1 defeat to Lazio earlier this month and he has been away with the USA national team in the international break.
Summer signing Maik Nawrocki is also on his way back after returning to full training this week and Rodgers suddenly has options in the back line with Nat Phillips also having more game time under his belt and Gustaf Lagerbielke impressing for Sweden.
Rodgers said: “He’s (Maik Nawrocki) doing very well and trained over the last week or so.
“We only have Stephen Welsh and Liel Abada who will hopefully be back in December time.
“Thankfully that’s starting to ease off and we’re starting to get numbers back in what’s going to be a busy part of the season.
“You always know you will have injuries, I just think at the beginning of the season that aligned with new players coming in and trying to adapt and settle was the challenge.
“The players have come through that really well and things feel stable and we’re excited about things coming forward.
“In a matter of weeks, Liam has gone from a player playing and thinking he’s leaving Celtic, to playing regularly in the team, to playing in the Champions League and making his international debut.
“That’s how football can work for you if you stay focused and concentrated, and I’m absolutely delighted for him, but now consistency is the name of the game.”
After their trip to Edinburgh on Sunday the Scottish champions will come up against arguably their toughest group stage opponent at the top table this season when they host Diego Simeone’s side on Wednesday.
After after two defeats from their opening games, despite showing signs that he can compete at that level, Rodgers knows they will need to take something from the game to keep their hopes alive of progressing in Europe after Christmas.
He said: “It’s always a difficult place to go to, Tynecastle, but we will relish the game and the atmosphere.
“Sadly there won’t be as many tickets for our supporters, so we will have to go there with not our usual support.
“We’ve shown this season that we can go into tough venues and get the results that we need and we want to go there and perform well.
“Atletico are an outstanding team and Diego Simeone has done an outstanding job over many years there.
“He’s been there over a decade and been really successful so we know the challenge and that they are a very good side.
“For us, in our two games, we have been really competitive and we’re not far off from being a good side at this level.
“There were still elements in those games that I was pleased with and we will go into this game and look to give absolutely everything and see if we can learn from the previous two games.”
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