Brendan Rodgers is seen as a god in Parkhead for creating a Celtic team which had much flair but also enjoyed unprecedented success last year as the club were Invincible in domestic competitions. His Celtic side proved to score plenty of goals and were found to be very enjoyable and fun to watch. Celtic are currently 8 points clear at the top of the SPL but their air of invincibility has diminished with two defeats in the league this year. Celtic issues at centre-back have been evident when coming up in Europe as both PSG and Bayern defeated them with relative ease. Rodgers has had to deal with ever-growing injury list which includes Dedryck Boyata, Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong, Jonny Hayes, Anthony Ralston and Patrick Roberts are also currently sidelined. New signing Marvin Compper has been struggling with injury and is yet to make his competitive debut. It looks very likely that fellow January signing Jack Hendry will potentially play as Josip Simunovic struggles for form. Chelsea loanee Charlie Musonda could be vying for a place as well with Scott Sinclair recently looking out of sorts. For Rodgers to create a dynasty at Celtic like Martin O’Neill he does need to show he can do it in Europe. When Martin O’Neill took Celtic to the Uefa cup final in 2004 he showed that Celtic could still do it on the European stage. O’Neill had players of undoubtable quality with the likes of Henrikh Larsson,Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon. Rodgers perhaps does not have that quality/financial muscle available to replicate that and may have to rely on the team collective to try and beat Zenith over 2 legs.
Celtic who come up against Zenith who will play their 1st competitive game for 2 months as the Russian league is on winter break. They lie in second place 8 points behind Lokomotiv Moscow and may see Europa League as a welcome distraction.. Roberto Mancini who is trying to rehabilitate his reputation at Zenith following underwhelming spells at Inter and Galatasaray will know Celtic’s strengths from his time in England. Their dangerman is Alexandrei Kokorin who is by far Zenith’s best player and will want to shine on the European stage as he has stated that he is keen to test himself in one of Europe’s best leagues. They also can call on experienced players like Branislav Ivanovic and Dominic Criscito and Zenith will definitely see themselves as favourites against the Scottish champions.