Gibraltar trip kicks off Rodgers’ Celtic tenure


Paris (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will take charge of his first competitive game with the Scottish champions on Tuesday away to Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar in the second round of Champions League qualifying.

The former Liverpool boss replaced Ronny Deila at Parkhead in May and is aiming to lead the 1967 European champions back into the group stage for the first time since 2013-14.

Celtic approach their first competitive fixture of the season as overwhelming favourites against their semi-professional opponents, but for Lincoln the clash is a “dream tie”.

“Everyone here is just a big group of friends who have been training all our lives together,” Lincoln club director Elton Duarte told UEFA.com.

“We don’t get paid for what we do and we all have to work, but now we have a dream tie with Celtic.” 

Named in honour of English lower-league club Lincoln City, Gibraltar’s Red Imps have dominated the domestic game in recent times, much like Celtic, winning the last 14 league championships.

And Rodgers, who took his players on a 13-day pre-season trip to Slovenia, has warned Celtic to expect a challenging encounter at Victoria Stadium.

“It will be a tough game in Gibraltar but we are ready as we can be,” Rodgers told Celtic’s club website.

“We have piled as much work as we can into the last 20 days out here both on and off the pitch and we are ready as we can be for it.”

Celtic were unbeaten in their four warm-up matches and Rodgers praised the efforts of his squad after spending valuable time working with his players.

“I have been overly pleased by the attitude of the players. There is still a long way to go before we are perfect but in terms of the attitude and what the players are trying to take on board, I have been delighted.”

BATE Borisov of Belarus are also in the draw after landing a 10th consecutive national title.

BATE have reached the group stage in three of the past four seasons, notably stunning Roma 3-2 last year, and will play Finland’s SJK Seinajoki at home in the first leg.

Astana, who made their group stage debut last term, travel to Vilnius to take on Lithuanian outfit Zalgiris on Wednesday, while 1991 European champions Red Star Belgrade face Valletta in Malta.

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