Zenit the focus for Brendan Rodgers


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Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers felt his only option was to field a weakened team against St Johnstone ahead of the second leg of their Europa League showdown with Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday.

The Parkhead club were held to a 0-0 draw in Glasgow on Sunday as Rodgers made seven changes to his side.

Celtic head to Russia on Thursday holding a 1-0 advantage after their first-leg success and Rodgers has no regrets over his decision to make changes for their Premiership clash at the weekend.

“No – you have to be careful with so many big games and a big game on Thursday,” he told reporters, when asked if he should have named a stronger team.

“Kieran Tierney has played nearly two seasons in one and I have to take the opportunities to give him a breather. After Thursday he has Aberdeen on Sunday and games to follow from there.

“Scott Brown is suspended, Mikael Lustig has a niggle on his Achilles and we couldn’t risk that and Oliver Ntcham was ill and couldn’t play.

Scott Sinclair came in and is top class so it was still a strong team. It was young, but strong and we just couldn’t get the win.

“Olivier should be fine for Thursday. Browny is available and Mika was precautionary but should be fine.

There was no need to risk it when I have other players I can give a chance to.”

The Scottish champions remain as the league leaders despite their draw with St Johnstone as they sit nine points clear of nearest rivals Rangers and Aberdeen.

Celtic are 5.25 to beat Zenit on Thursday or 3.80 to claim a draw as they seek a spot in the last 16 of the Europa League.

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