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Brendan Rodgers so proud ahead of his bow as Celtic manager

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers spoke of his pride ahead of his first game as Celtic boss against Lincoln Red Imps at the Victoria Stadium tonight.

After four unbeaten warm-up matches in Austria and Slovenia, the Hoops manager, who took over from Ronny Deila in May, gets his tenure under way for real against the part-timers from Gibraltar in the first-leg of the Champions League second qualifying round.

Asked how he was feeling ahead of the clash, the Ulsterman, who ruled Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen out for "two or three weeks" with an ankle injury, said: "Very proud.

"I am really looking forward to it, I can't wait for the game to get under way and get working and see the relationship between the game and the training we have been doing.

"We have a long way to go before we are ideally where I want us to be at, certainly all the signs so far make me think I am really looking forward to this season.

"It's going to be an exciting year and it is nice to get off to this start and hopefully we get a good performance and result."

Asked how he would approach this game against the semi-professionals from the Rock, as opposed to a team like Chelsea, the former Liverpool boss said: "There is no change.

"Celtic are always the big attraction, the big draw, the big club, we are very proud to take Celtic around the world for our supporters and players.

"Every game is a big game. There is no game that is any bigger or smaller. Of course you have different levels of opponent but for myself and the staff that doesn't change our preparation and at Celtic there is a huge expectation on us to do well."

The Imps' tiny stadium holds only 2,000 fans, around half of whom will be supporting the Scottish champions, and although Rodgers admits that playing on an artificial surface is "never ideal" he is confident his side will cope.

He said: "The beauty of our boys is they have some experience of it back home, and what I have learned is they cope with pretty much everything.

"They cope with long journeys, travel and they don't bat an eyelid, they just get on with it because they are so keen to work and improve.

"Pitches like that suit your technically-based players and thankfully we have a lot, but other than that I am happy with the team that I am thinking of playing.

"This game presents us with an early opportunity that we have to take.

"We have watched Lincoln, they are very workmanlike, they have won over the course of two games to play against us, so we will give them that respect."

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