Brendan Rodgers calls for repeat performance as Celtic tackle Zenit again
The Hoops hold the upper hand following their win in Glasgow.
Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic will have to reach the heights of their first-leg performance against Zenit St Petersburg if they are to progress in the Europa League.
The Scottish champions travelled to Russia with a 1-0 win from the first leg at Parkhead last week.
It was a deserved victory for the Hoops and their Northern Irish boss is looking for more of the same on Thursday night to take Celtic into the last 16 of European football’s second-tier club competition.
They are aiming to reach that stage for the first time since 2003/04 when Martin O’Neill’s side lost to Villarreal in the quarter-finals.
Speaking at Celtic’s hotel in St Petersburg, Rodgers said: “It would be a huge achievement for us.
“Obviously the competition itself and European football is notoriously very difficult now for ourselves, but I think we showed in the first leg how well we played.
“We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked.
“Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level.
“We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready for that.
“They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity.
“Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we’re going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive.
“They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn’t changed.
“But what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.”
The former Liverpool manager expects Zenit, who because of the winter break in Russia played their first competitive game in two months at Celtic Park, to be more attacking in front of their own supporters.
And with that in mind, he is looking for his side to be clever in how they might take advantage.
Rodgers said: “Zenit are predominantly a counter-attacking team and they have obviously scored a lot of goals in their season so far, and they have players of quality.
“But they may want to bring a bit more initiative to the game.
“For us, we have analysed the game from the first leg and, even though we played very well, creating opportunities and didn’t concede, there are still areas where we can be better.
“As always, we like to play with aggression and with that educated pressure on the ball – if you can press, great, if not, make sure you’re super compact and the look to go from there and create opportunities.
“That will be our idea going into the game and we will look forward to working that way.”