Celtic, under the guidance of manager Brendan Rodgers, is gearing up for a critical Champions League match against Lazio in Rome.

The stakes are high as Celtic seeks a vital win to bolster their European campaign. Following this crucial tie at Stadio Olimpico, an extraordinary opportunity awaits Rodgers and his team—a potential private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Brendan Rodgers
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group E – Celtic v Atletico Madrid – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – October 25, 2023 Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

While the meeting’s confirmation hinges on the Pope’s health, following reports of mild cold symptoms, the prospect has excited Rodgers. He expressed his enthusiasm, telling RecordSport, “That will be absolutely amazing. We would be blessed to do that, it would be a real privilege. Hopefully, we can take a really nice result to the Vatican.”

Rodgers is acutely aware of the challenges ahead. To secure Celtic’s first Champions League group stage away win in six years, discipline will be paramount. The team has faced setbacks in recent matches, with red cards significantly impacting their performance.

During their first match against Feyenoord in Rotterdam, Celtic was reduced to nine men following the dismissals of Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm. Similarly, in Madrid against Atletico, a controversial VAR decision led to the sending off of Japanese player Daizen Maeda.

The Celtic manager emphasised the importance of maintaining composure and a full squad on the field. “Discipline is one of the key factors for us,” Rodgers said. He praised his team’s competitiveness and quality of play when at full strength but acknowledged the difficulty of achieving results when outnumbered. “We’ve had men sent off in two games now, and when you’re down to nine men and 10 men at this level, it’s near-on impossible to get a result given the quality of the opposition teams,” he added.

Rodgers concluded with a rallying call for consistency and a robust 90-minute performance. As Celtic step onto the field in Rome, the team not only carries their European hopes but also the anticipation of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter in the Vatican.

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