Brendan Rodgers has urged Celtic and Rangers to give Scottish football’s battered pride a Europa League boost.
The Old Firm giants have been at loggerheads over Celtic’s reduced ticket allocation for their forthcoming trip to Ibrox on December 29.
However, Rodgers insisted both he and Steven Gerrard are united by a common desire to bolster the image of the club game by securing knock-out European football after Christmas.
Brendan Rodgers wants Celtic and Rangers to restore the pride of Scottish football
Scotland’s champions face Rosenborg in Trondheim on Thursday night knowing qualification for the last 32 is in their own hands, while Rangers are in with a shout of qualifying from their group as they prepare for a home clash with Villarreal.
Rodgers knows a victory over the Norwegian champions, combined with a Red Bull Salzburg win over Leipzig, would leave his team needing a single point from their final game at home against the Austrians on December 13.
‘Of course, the European game is becoming very difficult for countries like ourselves,’ said the Celtic boss. ‘So if the likes of ourselves and Rangers can get through, it would be great for the nation, for both clubs, that’s what we want.
Celtic face Trondheim on Thursday as they aim for a place in the knockout stages in Europe
‘It’s still very much our ambition and I hope we can do that. You look after yourselves and your own club, but for the bigger picture – which is important for our football – it’s great if we can get as many teams as possible into European games.’
The build-up to Thursday’s Group B game has been dominated by concerns over a possible carve-up between Salzburg and Leipzig, who are both under the same ownership. Salzburg are currently top on 12 points, with Leipzig and Celtic level on six, and Rosenborg pointless at the bottom.
But Rodgers, whose team are unbeaten in three visits to Trondheim in the last 16 months, has told his players to ignore events elsewhere and focus on the task in hand.
‘You can’t afford to worry about what’s going on in the other game. You’ve got too much to focus on with your own game and our purpose is very clear going into the game.
‘We want to win and we have to take care of that side of it.’ Group leaders Salzburg have yet to drop a point in four games. Despite facing Leipzig at home on Thursday, however, the German visitors are bookmakers’ favourites – prompting fears of a stitch-up.
Steven Gerrard is united with Rodgers in wanting Scottish football to thrive once again
But Rodgers shrugged: ‘The knowledge that goes on around it, I tend not to worry about that in any game. Essentially it’s about having a clear purpose in your own play and knowing clearly what our objective is. We want to win this game and go back into our very last game with a fighting chance to qualify. It’s as simple as that.’
Responding to suggestions that Rosenborg will field a weakened team on Thursday because they face Stromsgodset in a domestic cup final on Sunday, Rodgers said: ‘I don’t worry about what team someone else is going to put out.
‘Rosenborg have earned the right to play whatever team they want to play. It’s their last home game in the competition. They’ve just won their league and celebrated it, as they should. They also have a cup final like us at the weekend. It is all about your own objective.’ Captain Scott Brown travelled with the squad, but looks unlikely to start his first game since October 20.