Celtic look to secure a landmark trophy

Players feel European exit not to cast a blow to morale

Gulf News

Glasgow: Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers cannot afford to linger long on his side’s European elimination as they prepare to take on Aberdeen in the Scottish League Cup final on Sunday.

The match at Hampden Park is an opportunity for Rodgers to secure his place in the club’s history books days after he watched as the Hoops were powerless to stop a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona secure a 2-0 win at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

They were already certain to bow out of the Champions League in the group stage but that result ended the Glasgow giants’ hopes of even making it into the Europa League, condemning them to bottom spot in Group C.

That was a blow for the ambitious former Liverpool manager who has made a massive impact since his arrival in the summer.

But now Rodgers, who has seen Celtic go 10 points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership after just 12 games, has the chance to win a first piece of silverware with the club.

If Celtic do win, it would be a historic 100th trophy for them — and they hope it will be the first leg of a treble, with the league title looking inevitable and the Scottish Cup to come.

Despite their huge success in Scotland, Celtic have only won the treble on three occasions in their history with the last coming in the 2000/01 season under Rodgers’ fellow Northern Irishman Martin O’Neill.

Emilio Izaguirre, who has been at Parkhead for the past six years, is one of the more experienced players in the Celtic dressing room and he insisted their European exit wouldn’t have a negative impact on the players.

“Barcelona are the best team in the world. It’s as simple as that. We tried our best, but it was so difficult to play against them,” the Honduran international said.

“But now we focus on the cup final. That now means everything.

“We have to put this game behind us. Sunday is a huge match for all of us and I am looking to win another medal for Celtic.

“This club is all about winning titles and this is a fantastic chance to do it again in front of our supporters.

“We need to win this final. We are disappointed to lose at Celtic Park, we never want to do that, but we can make it up for it soon.”

They will face an Aberdeen side desperate to reclaim a trophy they last secured in 2014.

Manager Derek McInnes was the man who led the club to that success, their first trophy in 19 years.

He believes his side, who have provided Celtic’s main challenge in the league for the past two years, can inflict a first domestic defeat of the campaign on the Glasgow club despite losing their two league clashes this season.

“This is where our players want to be. They all are at Aberdeen to win trophies and kick on in their careers. Sunday is a chance for them to show that,” he said.

“It’s clear there have been improvements at Celtic. Their league form last season was good and they only lost three games, twice against us, but if they continue in a similar vein they are going to be out of sight.

“But every team is beatable and we certainly feel we are closer to them than maybe some people think.

“We have to play well, but we have a real confidence and belief in our own ability that we can go and win the thing.”

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