Belfast Telegraph

Rodgers' Celtic will put Blues through Hoops

 

By Graham Luney

Linfield have no chance of stunning Celtic in the Champions League. That's the view of Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley, who watched Brendan Rodgers' side rip apart his youthful team 9-0 in Dublin on Saturday.

The Hoops will be at Windsor Park on Friday (5.00pm) for the first leg of a Champions League second qualifying round clash and a daunting challenge awaits Linfield against Rodgers' Invincibles.

Bradley has warned the Blues: "Brendan's team are a well oiled machine and it's the best Celtic team I have seen in a number of years. They are playing exciting football and are very professional in everything they do.

"I can't give Linfield a chance of beating them. Celtic are so fit, strong and sharp that I couldn't pick out any weakness in their side. They are looking really focused and hungry too."

Stuart Armstrong and Scott Sinclair both grabbed a brace against Rovers while Mikael Lustig, Moussa Dembele, James Forrest, Jonny Hayes and Tom Rogic also found the net at Tallaght Stadium.

Although Bradley gave young players a chance to impress, he admitted the gulf in class was significant.

"It was very difficult for the young lads," he added. "Not many teams could live with Celtic when they are that good. It was a tough game for our lads."

Celtic went through their domestic campaign unbeaten last season, coasting to a treble, and while Linfield also netted a hat-trick of trophies, David Healy and his players know they haven’t faced opponents as dangerous as the Scottish champions.

The Irish Football Association and Northern Ireland Football League are looking at tinkering the league season so that clubs will play in May and June to enhance their chances of European success and landing cash windfalls.

Linfield will pocket around £1m from their glamour showdowns with Celtic.

Bradley added: “I can only comment on what our league has done and the results tell a story.

“Teams are fitter and stronger in the summer and performances in Europe have improved as our own club and Dundalk among others have shown.

“European football is a difficult challenge for Irish League clubs who are out of season so perhaps moving the season would produce better results and generate more finances.”

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