Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers is confident the club’s fans will have the patience that might be needed to get past Lincoln Red Imps in their Champions League qualifier at Parkhead tonight.
The Hoops are surprisingly trailing 1-0 to the part-timers after last week’s shock defeat in the first leg of the second round in Gibraltar.
Rodgers expects Lincoln to pack their defence again and he believes players and supporters may have to wait for a breakthrough.
However, he is confident that understanding in the stands will not be an issue.
The former Liverpool boss said: “The message to the players is similar to the supporters: It is that first 20 minutes, if we don’t score a goal, then you have to be patient and, for that, you need the support, but thankfully, I understand the Celtic supporters, they understand the game, they know football and patience is something they have been accustomed to.
“You can be an attacking team, but there are times when the ball can’t go forward, it has to be circulated.
“Our team will always be set up to create and score goals, but if it doesn’t come, the message is: They just have to be patient, because you might take one hour or 70 minutes in any game before you break a team down and then you can score two, three, four, five goals in the last 20 minutes.
“So, if the game is needing the patience, then I am sure the Celtic supporters will support the team.”
Rodgers revealed that defender Erik Sviatchenko “is fine” after being taken off with a head knock in the first half of the 2-1 friendly win against Wolfsburg on Saturday, though midfielders Nir Bitton (hip flexor) and Stefan Johansen (ankle) are “probably unavailable” albeit both will be assessed.
Rodgers has been linked with Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan and Blackburn’s Republic of Ireland defender Shane Duffy, who made a positive impression at Euro 2016 for Martin O’Neill’s men.
The Hoops boss would not comment on specific names, but said: “There is a couple of players that we are looking at, but we will see how that develops over the coming days.”
Striker Leigh Griffiths, however, insists there is enough quality in the squad at the moment to get into the Champions League.
Griffiths has “no doubt” that the Scottish champions will get past Lincoln and he is confident of advancing through another two qualifying rounds and into the group stages.
He said: “The manager will still have players in mind that he wants to come in and add to the squad, but I’ve got no doubt in my mind that this group of players in the changing room will get us through to the Champions League group stages.”
The Scotland international believes an early goal in front of what will be a huge crowd at Parkhead will put the Gibraltarian semi-professionals on the back foot.
He said: “It’s just about being professional on the night. If we get that early goal, then I think that will scare the other team and the crowd will get right behind us. The manager called for calmness after the first game. It’s a two-legged tie and we know it’s only half-time in the tie, so we’ve got a great chance of going through with the full crowd behind us at Celtic Park,” said Griffiths, who is confident the deficit will be overturned tonight.
“Obviously, you don’t want to get beat especially away from home, but it happened. We need to move on and tomorrow is the perfect night to go and rectify the result and go through.”
Griffiths, who scored 40 goals last season, was shunted wide on the right in Gibraltar to accommodate new signing Moussa Dembele but he insists he is still a “striker at heart”.
The former Wolves player said: “I played that role a couple of times in pre-season and I enjoyed it. With Moussa up there, it gives me a bit more freedom to go and express myself and get on the ball and try and make things happen, like the gaffer said, but ultimately, I’m still a striker at heart, I’m not a winger. He knows that and that’s why I’m still in the team. I can adapt to what formation he wants to play.”
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