Manuel Pellegrini will draw on his Old Firm experiences when he prepares his Real Betis side for the Europa League Group C opener against Rangers on Thursday night.
The 70-year-old Chilean was in charge of the Villarreal side which drew 2-2 with Rangers in the Champions League last-16 tie in 2006 and went through to the next round – eventually reaching the semi-finals where they lost to Arsenal – after a 1-1 draw in Spain.
Pellegrini’s Real Betis beat Celtic 4-3 in the group stages of the Europa League two seasons ago before losing 3-2 in Glasgow.
Pellegrini, who confirmed 40-year-old former Manchester City and Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo’s fitness will be assessed as he battles to recover from a calf injury, said: “I was here in 2006 and we managed to win and reach the semi-final of the Champions League that season with Villarreal.
“That experience helps. We also played Celtic and while we didn’t win we still qualified for the next stage.
“The experiences is a key element but it is not crucial. The players will have to perform.
“I think I have a very good idea of what Scottish football is. It is about passion, direct football, fighting for every goal, trying to go box to box as quickly as they can.
“The intensity of the game is maybe not the same as Spain but it is something we must consider tomorrow because in 95 minutes they play 100 per cent, technical and physical.
“I had the chance to come here not only as a manager and I also came to watch Celtic v Rangers when I was in England as a coach. It is great football with great fans.
“Rangers at home is the first game of the group and we want to get off to a positive start.
“In the first season (with Betis) we lost in extra-time to the team who ended up winning the competition.
“The next season we were top of a group, then had tight games against Man United before going out. This is our third season and we want to go even further.
“But, we cannot underestimate the other opponents in the group.”
Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Silva had to come off in the 5-0 defeat by Barcelona at the weekend with a thigh complaint and was replaced by debutant Fran Vieites, who usually plays for Betis B, and now Pellegrini is sweating on the fitness of Bravo.
The former Manchester City and West Ham boss said: “Bravo has trained and we will see if he can play tomorrow.
“I hope he will be 100 percent to play this game but I cannot say for certain.
“I’m not concerned if he doesn’t play as we have a young goalkeeper we trust a lot.”
Asked about the hammering by Barcelona at the weekend, Pellegrini said: “No, we are not concerned. We wouldn’t be comfortable if we had won 5-0 either.
“All we are worried about is the next game against Rangers.”
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