When Brendan Rodgers began his first spell as Celtic boss in 2016, he took over from Ronny Deila, who had faced growing criticism towards the end of his reign. Rodgers, in contrast, was hailed as a hero. This time around, things are very different.
After upsetting many fans when he left Celtic Park to take charge of Leicester (back in their Premier League days), Rodgers’ reappointment was far from universally popular with Celtic supporters.
And on this occasion, his performance in the hot seat will be compared to that of the treble-winning Ange Postecoglou. Rodgers is already up against it, as Celtic were knocked out of the Scottish League Cup by Kilmarnock in August.
Keeping the Faith
Celtic remain favourites to win the league and will fancy their chances of a good run in the Scottish Cup. Yet with the shadow of Big Ange looming large over Rodgers, his only real hope of being seen as a success in his first season back at the club is progression from the Champions League group stages.
Naturally, this is a tall order, with most Celtic betting markets showing the club as less likely to win the tournament than the likes of Union Berlin.
The Champions League is one competition in which both Postecoglou and Rodgers (during his first spell at Celtic) struggled – Celtic slumped against big European sides and frequently looked out of their depth.
If Rodgers can right this wrong and find a way to progress, his first season back will be a winner. If not, it seems likely he’ll face further criticism in some quarters.
Rodgers’ Liverpool Legacy
Rodgers had been criticised during his Liverpool days for not getting his team to cope defensively at the top level. Looking at the performance of Celtic squads, it seems as though the same issue remains, even despite their incredible domestic success.
While Celtic were hardly expected to win the Champions League under Rodgers, shipping seven goals to PSG and Barcelona was outright unacceptable to fans, who had at least hoped their team would compete.
Postecoglou’s record in the competition was also poor.
Last season, Celtic finished bottom of their group with two draws, four losses and a goal difference of -11.
As with the first Brendan Rodgers era, European results were the only criticism that could be levelled at Ange. But he left on much better terms and is fondly remembered by all fans of Celtic.
Brendan Rodgers must re-endear himself to the Celtic Park faithful.
He can’t do that by replicating the domestic treble, but if he can find a way to snuff out some of the world’s best forward lines, he may just find a way to get Celtic into the Champions League knockout rounds.
In truth, though, his European record at Leicester doesn’t bode well.
Although his side frequently competed in the Europa League, they never progressed beyond the Round of 32.
He did lead Leicester to their first-ever European semi-final in the Europa Conference League, but this was after they dropped into that competition from the second tier tournament.
Nonetheless, Celtic fans will be hoping that Rodgers’ years managing Leicester in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup with The Foxes will have seen him grow as a manager.
Hopefully, this experience has set Rodgers up to take on the big boys and be competitive in Europe’s elite competition.
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