Sep 28, 2016

    Can Rodgers' Celtic topple idol Guardiola?


    IN CELTIC'S Champions League clash with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City tonight, Brendan Rodgers will pit his wits against a man who has had a defining influence on his career.

    Whether with Swansea City, Liverpool or Celtic, Rodgers has sought to emulate the kind of passing football with which Guardiola took first Barcelona and then Bayern Munich to the summits of the game.

    "I've admired him from the outside looking in, at the courage he has showed to play the modern game," Rodgers told Spanish sports newspaper AS in 2014.

    Jose Mourinho gave Rodgers his first big leg-up in professional football, inviting the Northern Irishman, then working in the academy at Reading, to join him at Chelsea in 2004.

    But it is Guardiola, Mourinho's nemesis, whose example Rodgers has always strived to follow and it was in Guardiola's native Spain that his ideas about how to play the game took shape.

    Rodgers, 43, is an exponent of the joined-up coaching philosophy practised by clubs like Barcelona, where youth players are taught to play in the same possession-focused way as the first team.

    Prior to joining Mourinho at Chelsea, he spent time touring Spanish clubs to learn about their development of young players.

    Rodgers's commitment to passing football has not gone unnoticed by Guardiola.

    "I don't think there is any doubt about Brendan's quality," the City manager said.

    "He was closer than anyone in the last 25 years to winning the Premier League at Liverpool and he has a lot of experience."

    At Glasgow's Celtic Park tonight, against the man who laid the foundations for the present-day Barcelona, Rodgers has another chance to prove all those years of Spanish homework were not in vain.