Europa League: Zenit favourites against Celtic, says Brendan Rodgers

Celtic are yet to win at home in Europe under Rodgers outside the qualifying phase
Celtic are yet to win at home in Europe under Rodgers outside the qualifying phase
Europa League last-32, first leg: Celtic v Zenit St Petersburg
Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Date: Thursday 15 February Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland MW & DAB and live text on BBC Sport website

Celtic progression in the Europa League at the expense of Zenit St Petersburg would be viewed as an upset in the football world, says Brendan Rodgers.

The Scottish champions' manager is adamant that the Russian side are very much the favourites for the first leg of their last-32 tie in Glasgow.

"I think in terms of the standings of both teams in Europe right now, it would be fair to say that," he said.

"We have to be realistic - we know where we are."

Zenit have not played a competitive match since mid-December because of an extended winter break, but Rodgers thinks that might work in the Russians' favour.

Celtic, meanwhile, have played six times since the Scottish Premiership clubs returned from their winter break on 20 January, winning five of them and losing one to Kilmarnock.

"You could look at it the other way and say they could be fresher," Northern Irishman Rodgers said.

"They've been off for a period of time, but they've been working and have played a number of games.

"And the nature of the competition means it's going to very difficult for us.

Garry Monk was a guest at Celtic training
Former Swansea, Leeds and Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk was a guest at Celtic training

"But it's a really exciting challenge. For us, our objective was to progress through from the Champions League and now we can focus on these two games."

Meanwhile, Celtic winger Scott Sinclair has warned Zenit head coach Roberto Mancini that he is a much-improved player from the one the Italian signed for Manchester City from Swansea City in 2012.

The 28-year-old failed to make an impact under Mancini and moved on to Aston Villa before ending up at Celtic Park.

"When I went to City, I only played a few games under him," said Sinclair, who is Celtic's top scorer with 17 goals.

"But there are so many players there that didn't really get as much game time as they would have liked.

"I am a much more different now, than then. I don't have a point to prove to him, it's for myself.

"You have these targets and the levels that you want to play at and, for me, it is working hard and giving it 100%.

"He is a very tactical manager. I am sure he will be doing a lot of tactical work to stop us performing."

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