Dublin (AFP) – Brendan Rodgers remains optimistic about Celtic’s Champions League hopes even after seeing his side beaten 3-1 by Spanish giants Barcelona in a Dublin friendly.
Luis Enrique’s side scored three first-half goals through Arda Turan, Munir El Haddadi and an Efe Ambrose own-goal, to cancel out Leigh Griffiths’s 29th-minute strike.
Rodgers had one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League third qualifying round second leg tie with Astana at Celtic Park, and despite some poor defensive play, expressed his happiness with what was a challenging 90 minutes against the La Liga champions.
“It was an excellent workout, it’s always a great education when playing Barcelona in terms of how they play, but I was really proud of the players coming back off a long trip during the week,” said Rodgers, whose side were held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Kazakhstan.
“They had one day to recover and then out there to face a team who test you and your organisation.
“I thought we were good in terms of some of our pressing, our goal comes from our ability to press and be up the field. I thought we had some really good passages of play.
“Our only negative was the injury to Nir Bitton, it looks a nasty one but we’ll assess that over the next 24 hours,” the Northern Irishman added.
– ‘Unlucky’ Ambrose –
Former Liverpool manager Rodgers revealed he was looking to sign four more players during the transfer window, and following another slip-up by Ambrose, the Nigerian international defender, defence will be an area he is keen to strengthen.
The Celtic boss refused to confirm or deny a possible move for Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair, but gave his support to Ambrose, whose substitution appeared to be cheered by some Celtic fans.
“I think he’s an unlucky guy, bless him,” Rodgers said.
“I think a striker would have been proud of that goal. He was so unfortunate. The ball is whipped in, there is no real danger and for it to come off his leg that far outside the post and to go in the far corner is disappointing, especially after us getting back into the game as well.
“Look, sometimes these things happen, but overall he did okay.”
Aston Villa midfielder Scott Sinclair could yet join the Rodgers revolution, following Moussa Dembele and Kolo Toure, who have already signed for Celtic.
Rodgers said saw plenty of positives in the 3-1 defeat, but accepted the side had plenty of work ahead of them.
“We’re still a long way away from where I want to be, but what I can’t deny is the mental fitness of the players, and physically how they’re pushing themselves, we showed some good moments in the game in terms of where we want to be, but the reality is other players will be coming in, and obviously we’ll have more work on the training ground,” he said.
Meanwhile Barcelona manager Enrique was pleased with his side’s first pre-season game, with 20 players getting a run out.
“It was great to be back, to have the team back, quite happy with a good result, we played a good game,” he said.
“It was a good test. Celtic have a second game in the Champions League to come, and they are working hard under the new coach.”
Enrique had special praise for Hoops winger Patrick Roberts, who models his game on Lionel Messi.
“He’s a great player, he has a great future in the team, he has great quality and I think he can bring good things to the team,” Enrique said.
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