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Astana v Celtic: My Bhoys aren't in danger of losing focus, says Rodgers

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers claims complacency is not an issue as Celtic prepare to defend their healthy 5-0 Champions League play-off lead in Astana.

The Bhoys took a huge step towards guaranteeing their place in the group stages for the second successive season under the Ulsterman following a first-leg thrashing of the Kazakhstan club at Parkhead last week.

Rodgers will assess Nir Bitton, who has had a protective boot over his foot injury over the last few days - but he is more certain about his side's ability to stay focused in the Astana Arena.

"In every single game we play we are always relaxed but focused," he said. "We are never complacent, we never take anything for granted.

"When you play for a huge club like Celtic every day you have to prove yourself, and in every game, so there is no question of being too complacent.

"My players will be relaxed but always with a focus.

"We worked very well in the first leg but we need to complete the job. The first leg is gone.

"This is a game that you just can't just discard. We had a great result in the first game but we had to work very hard and it will be equally that."

Since a 7-0 defeat against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in September 2016, the Scottish treble winners have not lost on their European travels against Borussia Monchengladbach, Manchester City, Linfield and Rosenborg.

Moreover, they have not conceded in five European ties this season and Rodgers is keen to keep those records intact.

The former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: "We have a good record since the Barcelona game away from home in Europe so we are looking to add to that.

"We had a good performance against Monchengladbach, drew and should have won the game.

"Manchester City we had a good result and drew, and against Rosenborg we won 1-0 so we are growing and developing at this level and we hope we can continue to do that.

"So we think of it as 0-0. We are strong in every game we play and we always pick a team to get the best result we can.

"A lot of focus is on the creativity and style with which the team plays but we have a philosophy in terms of our defensive organisation which is also equal to our attacking idea.

"We take great pride in how we defend, how we press, the togetherness and cohesion in the team because it is all related.

"So all that means we concede few opportunities and then we can defend with the ball as well."

Astana boss Stanimir Stoilov, meanwhile, is not expecting his side to perform a miracle.

Asked if he believed in the prospect of a something extraordinary occurring at the Astana Arena, Bulgarian Stoilov said: "I have to be realistic. Celtic are 99 per cent through to the group stages of the Champions League.

"Our chances are not so great but anything can happen.

"But to be realistic, Celtic will be going through.

"Celtic can get through the group stages but it depends on who the opponents are after that as to how far they can go."

When Stoilov was referred to Barcelona's remarkable comeback against Paris St. German last season when they won 6-1 in the Nou Camp after losing the first game 4-0, he was no more optimistic.

He said: "Barcelona can do these kind of unreal things - we don't."

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