Celtic: Brendan Rodgers won't change team balance for Griffiths & Dembele

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Leigh Griffiths (top) and Moussa Dembele
Leigh Griffiths (seven) and Moussa Dembele (eight) have scored 15 goals between them this season

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says he will not change the balance of his side to play strikers Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele together.

Griffiths is fit to return from injury on Saturday, but Dembele has overtaken him as the top scorer in the meantime.

That leaves Rodgers with a difficult selection decision against Kilmarnock.

"It's not a big worry for me," Rodgers said. "You have to pick a team that works, it's not about finding room in the team for names."

He added: "The team always needs to have offensive and defensive balance and if that means some players miss out, then they miss out. But everyone respects that and the mentality has been superb."

As he prepares for Saturday's meeting with Kilmarnock and then facing Manchester City in the Champions League four days later, Rodgers is happy with the attacking form of his side, although he wants more composure from his players in the final third.

With Dembele having scored eight goals in 14 games this season - including a hat-trick against Rangers - and Griffiths seven in nine, the Celtic manager believes the competition between the two players will be good for his side.

"I'm sure if Leigh had been involved in the last couple of games that he would have helped himself to some goals," Rodgers said.

"The idea is to build a squad that can push each other on. You're always better when you have someone challenging for your position, that keeps you on your toes, you can't have a lazy day in training.

"If it's not happening in games, I can always make changes quickly because of the quality we have."

'Leigh has his strengths and I have mine'

Dembele believes he and Griffiths can strike up an effective partnership. They have played together, although the Scotland striker was the starting centre-forward, with Dembele on the bench, for several games before he was injured.

The Frenchman is also adamant that he will remain the team's penalty taker, despite missing from the spot in the 7-0 defeat to Barcelona in Celtic's opening Champions League tie.

"Leigh's a clever player so he can bring something to the team as well," Dembele said. "Leigh has his strengths and I have mine.

"We're all here for the good of the team. If I can score, I'll score; if Leigh can score, I'll give the ball to him. In a team, you need to have players who compete, and having Leigh here is a good thing for me. It will make me a better player and him, too.

"With the penalty, sometimes you score and sometimes you miss. When you miss a penalty, you just need to think about scoring the next one. It happens to everyone. I will take the next one."

'Champions League campaign is about learning'

Rodgers has been content with the way his players reacted to the heavy defeat in Barcelona, recovering with a draw away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle - in which the Celtic manager felt his side had done enough to win - then defeating Alloa in the Scottish League Cup quarter-final.

Andreas Christensen (right) and Sergio Aguero
Celtic face Manchester City next week in the Champions League

His focus is on overcoming Kilmarnock on Saturday, and he acknowledges the extent of the step up in level that facing Manchester City four days later will present.

"It's the job of coaching staff to protect the players from [the effects of the Barcelona defeat]," Rodgers said.

"It's important to take a positive from it. It doesn't feel it at the time, it feels like the longest 90 minutes of their lives, but its about putting it into perspective: the opponent they were playing against and then can you learn from it.

"It's a huge jump up from the domestic level to some of the best teams in Europe, but the players have earned the right to be there.

"This Champions League campaign is going to be about learning for us. Of course we're going to give it our best shot in every game, and our homes games in particular are going to be very important for us. We'll relish the challenge when it comes."

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