'It has to be on my mind' - Celtic team selection dilemma as Brendan Rodgers seeks 'surprise' after 'infantile' comment

Celtic's Reo Hatate will make his comeback against Dundee following a month out with a thigh injury as Brendan Rodgers seeks to strengthen his options for Tuesday's Champions League opener away to Feyenoord. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

The Irishman does not downplay the testing nature of what awaits them in Rotterdam. But he refuses to rule out his team delivering the unexpected following disparaging comments made by Dutch former PSV Eindhoven and Anderlecht manager Aad de Mos, now a football pundit in his country. And providing game time to a number of players this weekend is considered key by him to making an instant impression in club football’s elite competition.

On-loan Liverpool centre-back Nat Philips can expect to earn a first Celtic start in the confrontation with the Tayside men, while other new arrivals Paolo Bernardo and Luis Palma are likely to make appearances after the trio did not feature in the win over Rangers before the international break. The league fixture will also be an opportunity to reintroduce Reo Hatate into the senior set-up after a month sidelined by a thigh injury.

[The Champions League] has to be on my mind,” said Rodgers. “It has to be on the team for Tuesday – which I know – and then working out game time for players who I might need to be ready. There’s a lot to consider. Reo will play before Tuesday. Whether he starts or not depends. It was a challenging summer for him. Having seen him close up I know it was difficult [with the speculation] He’s over that now. It’s just a shame he got injured when he did, but his response to get back has been fantastic. He knows the demands and where we are at – he’s a top class player. It’s about managing him back into it. The window is difficult for players but things settle down once it’s closed.”

Rodgers refused to rule out a slap down for De Mos after the former coach said Celtic played “infantile football” and be beaten home and away by Feyenoord. Asked if his team could surprise their opponents – and backers – this week, the 50-year-old struck a defiant note. “I would think so,” he said. “I haven’t seen the comments but we will always be underdogs for some. We are the pot four team. Obviously we are a huge club with tremendous history, but people who don’t know that will just see it as a pot four team from a smaller country. That’s the beauty of it. That could be the surprise element we bring to games. People might not expect us to be as good as we can be.”