All’s fair in Europa League group despite energy Bren doesn’t buy talk of the Red Bull conspiracy...
CELTIC Rodgers reckons
BRENDAN Rodgers, the Celtic manager, last night dismissed concerns that Leipzig and Salzburg, who are both backed by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, will collude to ensure they each qualify for the Europa League knockout rounds.
The Scottish champions defeated German rivals Leipzig 2-1 at Parkhead on Thursday evening to draw level with their opponents on points in the Group B table with two games remaining.
The Bundesliga club will play Salzburg, who are six points clear at the top of the section following a 5-2 triumph over Rosenborg in Norway, away in Austria in their next fixture on November 29.
UEFA cleared both clubs to play in the Champions League last season despite their rules stating that no “individual or entity” can have a “decisive influence” over the activities of more than one club in its tournaments.
Red Bull convinced European football’s governing body that both clubs satisfied the eligibility criteria after making “significant and substantial” changes to the corporate structure at Salzburg.
The company reduced their backing of the Austrian champions and removed a number of their senior executives and successfully argued their influence over the club had diminished. They are now officially only the main sponsor.
The clubs, who both display Red Bull’s logo on the crests and jerseys and both play in Red Bull-sponsored stadiums, were drawn to play each other for the first time in the Europa League in the 2018/19 campaign.
Rodgers, though, stressed he is relaxed about the situation despite the fact that if Leipzig and Salzburg draw, the latter will progress and the former will only need to beat Rosenborg, who have lost all four of their games, at home to qualify for the last 32 of the competition.
“I would never question the integrity of it,” he said. “Both teams have pride. You saw it in the first game. Both teams want to win. Salzburg are a very good side. They have shown that against Leipzig and in their game on Thursday night. So, no, I’m sure that will be a very good game. Both teams will want to win that.
“The group is a very tough group. You see the level of the two teams that are there plus Rosenborg. So it will be a fight hopefully right to the end for us.”
Rodgers was delighted at how Celtic performed in their win over Leipzig on Thursday evening and is hopeful they can reach the Europa League knockout rounds for the second season running if they attain that high standard in their remaining games against Rosenborg away and Salzburg at home.
He said: “What we said to the players before this game was ‘let’s show our identity and if it doesn’t work out and we lose the game it’s okay because we’ve at least tried to do it the best way that we can which is our way’. I was really proud of the players for taking that on board.
“At this level you cannot be timid and there was certainly no sign of that in terms of their performance. But that is how we have been playing. It was great to take that from domestic level into a game against a top class team.”
Rodgers continued: “It wasn’t a hard luck story at the end. It wasn’t 1-1. We deserved to win. That was the pleasing aspect. We actually earned the victory. We had to show a resilience.
“My experience of working with the very best players in the world, and this was the message I gave to the
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is all smiles talking