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Men's Football Rodgers: You don't win the game on paper

Brendan Rodgers wants his players to demand more of themselves in front of goal when Celtic take on Rosenborg in their opening Europa League Group B game tonight.

The Hoops drew a blank in their Premiership clash with St Mirren on Friday night and the normally free-scoring treble champions have notched only five goals in five league games this season, as they sit five points behind leaders Hearts.

The Celtic boss is now looking for improvement from all his potential goalscorers as the focus turns to Europe.

“On paper we have lots of players that can score, but you don’t win the game on paper,” said the Irishman, who revealed Kristoffer Ajer is a big doubt with a virus while fellow defender Jozo Simunovic remains out with a knee injury.

“You have to win it on the field. We have to take those opportunities.

“I have always said possession is no good on its own. We have to have that penetration.

“But we have to be more demanding of ourselves now. That is our message.

“My trust in the players is 100 per cent, they have been brilliant in the time I have been here.

“But we need to improve in the final third of the pitch. Defensively we have been solid in our last four games, keeping a clean sheet, but we need to do more in the attacking third of the pitch.

“It is ensuring we have that energy and quality and being clinical to take opportunities.

“That is something that we have talked about and focused on in our training and will look to bring in these next games.”

Celtic knocked the Norwegian club out of the Champions League qualifiers last month with a 3-1 aggregate success, before themselves losing out to AEK Athens in the next round.

Looking forward to a group that also includes Salzburg and RB Leipzig, Rodgers said: “There is always excitement going into the European competitions and this is no different.

“It is a real good group we are in.

“The dynamics are slightly different in terms of playing Rosenborg. Previously it has been knock-out and maybe the first leg has been a little bit cagey.

“But still the difficulty of the game is still there.

“Rosenborg come into the game in really good form since we last played.

“We expect a tough game, we are playing at home and like any other games against them we really want to show our quality in the game.

“We prepare well. They are a good team. We respect their qualities, but we want to bring our game, our energy and quality and hopefully look to start the group with three points.”

The former Swansea and Liverpool manager has no residual disappointment from failing to reach the Champions League, after making it to the group stage in the last two years.

Rodgers said: “It’s where we deserved to be. We are not entitled to be in the Champions League.

“We didn’t qualify, it is as simple as that.

“So we arrived in the competition that we deserve to be in and we respect that and it is our duty to go and get as far as we can.”

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