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Linfield will pose us difficult questions, says Rodgers

 

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers is expecting the Linfield players to run until they drop when his Celtic side play the Blues in the eagerly-awaited Champions League qualifier at Windsor Park.

The Carnlough native was looking forward to flying home to Northern Ireland today in preparation for tomorrow's much-discussed first leg in Belfast.

The treble-winning Celtic boss hasn't been to Windsor Park for 30 years and will be interested to see the remarkable transformation of the stadium, as well as catch up with friend and Linfield counterpart David Healy.

Always a champion of young coaches, Rodgers has kept an eye on Healy's impressive progress at Linfield, and is sure the Blues, who overcame San Marino side La Fiorita in the first round, won't make it easy for the Hoops.

"Linfield won three trophies last season and we'll respect them," said Rodgers.

"David (Healy) has gone in and made a great impact. I watched their last two European matches and I know they'll fight and work over the two legs. Northern Ireland teams are always tough.

"There's a nice little edge to this tie which some of these early games don't bring. I'm looking forward to the game and going back home and seeing people there."

Meanwhile, Olivier Ntcham has revealed the prospect of Champions League football made his decision to leave Manchester City for Celtic an easy one.

The France Under-21 international has signed a four-year contract with the Hoops after they agreed a fee with City.

Ntcham has spent the past two seasons on loan at Serie A side Genoa and the 21-year-old felt he would get the chance to develop as a player under Rodgers and in Europe's elite competition, although he is not ready for their opening qualifier against Linfield.

Ntcham said: "It wasn't a tough decision. Sometimes it is better to leave. Not all clubs can play in the Champions League, that's why I chose to come here.

"I just watched one Celtic game, it was against Barca four or five years ago and they won. That's how I know Celtic. It was an unbelievable atmosphere."

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