Postecoglou: ‘No Celtic games are ever a dead rubber’

The Celtic boss says there's plenty to learn in the match against Real Betis.

Postecoglou: ‘No Celtic games are ever a dead rubber’ Craig Foy via SNS Group
Postecoglou says he wishes he could play in the match himself.

Ange Postecoglou insists Celtic’s final Europa League game against Real Betis will be a highly useful exercise.

Both clubs’ fate in the tournament has already been decided ahead of Thursday’s Celtic Park clash.

Celtic are dropping down to the Europa Conference League while the Spanish side cannot finish higher than their current second place.

With Celtic in the midst of a hectic schedule which sees them play seven more times before facing Rangers on January 2, Postecoglou could be forgiven for seeing an inconsequential European tie as an inconvenience.

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But he views it as a great chance to get some players crucial game time against opponents who are fresh from beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

“No games are ever a dead rubber,” the Celtic manager said. “Every game is an opportunity to do something special, do something that is memorable. I don’t see it as a dead rubber.

“It’s not about resting guys. I need to give some game time to players, that’s for sure.”

Postecoglou lost Anthony Ralston, Jota and Stephen Welsh to injury during last week’s win over Hearts and all three missed the weekend victory against Dundee United.

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“As we saw with the last game, whether it’s injuries or being able to rotate, I need players who have game time under their belts,” the Australian said.

“Thursday is a great opportunity for some of the guys who haven’t played much recently to get 90 minutes in.

“We’ve still got eight games between now and the break – including the cup final – so we want everyone up and running.”

The likes of Liam Scales, James McCarthy, Albian Ajeti and Nir Bitton will be eager for game time.

“I’ve got one bad knee and I’m overweight – but I’d love to play,” Postecoglou said.

“I don’t think anyone wouldn’t want that opportunity. European nights are always special for this club.

“For me as manager, it’s great as we’ll get meaningful minutes because, as we saw at the weekend, they are a top side.

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“You need to be exposed to that kind of football to get them ready for the challenges ahead.”

Johnston made only his second start of the season during Sunday’s 3-0 win at Tannadice and the winger can expect more in the coming weeks with Jota possibly out until after the winter break.

“He was good on Sunday,” Postecoglpu said. “It was good for him to get 90 minutes and start working on the things we have been talking to him about.

“Again, with attacking players, they usually measure themselves with goals and assists – all the flashy stuff. For me, it’s the other stuff that is important, and that’s what Mikey did the other day.

“He has got talent. He’ll score goals and create assists. It’s about making sure he understands you need to invest to do that.

“He’s seen Kyogo, Jota, Liel and James Forrest. They are all getting the rewards, but they have to put the hard work in. Mikey did that on Sunday.”