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Playing in Europe after Christmas is Celtic’s next goal

Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is eyeing up European football after Christmas, following their qualification to the group stages of the Champions League.

It is the second successive year that Celtic have booked their place in the group stages of the Champions League, after beating Astana 8-4 on aggregate on Tuesday night.

Celtic will now be in Thursday’s draw and Rodgers is looking to better last season’s campaign.

Rodgers said: “The first thing was to qualify. It’s a big achievement with the route that we have to take and the games we have to play. That was the first target.

“What we would like to do is try to progress this year and be in European football after Christmas. We are coming into the highest level and we are going to play against some fantastic players.

“The players are only going to improve and get better and get better experience. If we can then be in European football after Christmas that will be another great step forward for us.

“We look forward to the draw now. It’s brilliant for the club, it’s absolutely brilliant for Glasgow the city. It’s not just about the football, it’s about the nation and what it does economically and commercially and what it brings into the city of Glasgow.

“Champions League football, business and everything. It’s fantastic. We can sit and enjoy the flight back now.”

Rodgers paid tribute to the Celtic players following the match, he added: “I have to give credit to the players. At 4-1 you can be blurred in that moment.

“We made some more changes to try and get the balance to the team. To try and get hold of the ball again and obviously the second goal was a big goal for us – a good finish and well-worked goal.

“In that moment we really settled into the game. Over the course of the two ties to score eight goals. I felt we could have been better with the ball, but we can defend much better than that.

“Across the whole campaign I’ve had midfield players playing centre-half, midfielders playing as strikers, right backs playing centre-half.

“So the players have done absolutely magnificent and it’s another good learning game for us because we would want to be better than that defensively.

“But it’s a night to celebrate. It’s a wonderful achievement to gain qualification and get ourselves into the draw for the group stages.”

Celtic have reached the last 16 of the Champions League on three occasions, twice under Gordon Strachan in 2005-06 and 2007-08, then in 2012-13 under Neil Lennon.

Brendan Rodgers

Mixed emotions for Brendan Rodgers

Champions League Group

Celtic drawn in Group B with Bayern, PSG & Anderlecht