Brendan Rodgers has warned his Celtic players they must avoid seeing red against Lazio on Tuesday if they are to have a chance of keeping their European campaign alive beyond Christmas.
The Hoops have taken just one point from their four Champions League matches so far and need to win in the Stadio Olimpico and hope Feyenoord do not defeat Atletico Madrid in order to go into their final match against the Dutch side with a chance of progressing to the knockout phase of the Europa League.
Celtic’s cause has not been helped by the fact they have had three players sent off in their two away games – Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm in the 2-0 defeat in Rotterdam and Daizen Maeda in the first half of their 6-0 thrashing in Madrid.
Rodgers is adamant there can be no repeat of such indiscipline in Rome.
“What is important for us is making sure we have 11 men on the field,” said the Hoops boss. “In our two away games we’ve been down to nine men and then 10 men.
“At this level, that’s a big ask. For us, it’s about keeping our players on the field, playing the level of football that we know we can and have shown, and hopefully we get our breaks in the game.
“I think we learned that over the course of the competition, against Lazio and the other teams, that we can really compete when we are 11 vs 11.”
Celtic have not won away in the Champions League since defeating Anderlecht 3-0 more than six years ago, but Rodgers is optimistic his team can get the victory they require in the Italian capital.
“We have two games left, we know what we have to do,” he said. “We’re going to give it everything to achieve the victories we need.
“I’m excited by it, I’m really looking forward to seeing us play. I think we can get the result that we want but we know we have to work very, very hard.”
Rodgers is relishing the prospect of seeing his team run out at the Stadio Olimpico as they bid to avenge the 2-1 defeat they suffered at home to Lazio at the start of October.
“You play football to play in the best stadiums, in the best atmospheres,” he said. “When I was here before, the atmosphere was amazing and I expect it to be the same this time.
“It’s a really iconic stadium. You always expect the supporters to get behind the home team. I always say the louder the opponents cheer, the harder we run, so hopefully we run very hard.”
Celtic will be without key wide players Luis Palma, Liel Abada and Maeda, but James Forrest is back in contention after missing Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Motherwell.
Defender Liam Scales is confident about the Scottish champions’ prospects of victory.
“If we win the two games we give ourselves a right chance so that’s what we’re looking to do,” he said. “We do believe we can do it. We’ve come close enough, we’ve gone toe-to-toe with teams and just come out on the wrong side of the results.
“Away wins in Europe are hard to come by and if we can do that here it would be amazing for us as a group to kick on and believe that we can do it again in the last game.”
Former Shamrock Rovers defender Scales, who spent last season on loan at Aberdeen, is revelling in the Champions League experience.
“I’m taking it all in, taking as much of it in as I can because you don’t know how many of these experiences you’re going to have playing in these stadiums against this level of opposition,” said the 25-year-old.
“Before the games I try and take a second to take it all in and then I get into game mode.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country