Bayer Leverkusen train at Celtic Park ahead of tonight's Europa League fixture. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Ange Postecoglou reckons Bayer Leverkusen will view themselves as a “Champions League team” but has challenged his Celtic players to attack them at every opportunity and produce a statement result.
The Hoops square up to the Bundesliga outfit on Matchday Two of the Europa League at Parkhead this evening as they look to register their points in Group G.
Postecoglou wants his side to take the game to the German giants, just like they did for large spells during their 4-3 defeat to Real Betis.
He said: “Bayer Leverkusen are a side of great pedigree, they’ve got outstanding individual players and within their set-up, they’ve got a fairly settled team.
“They’re one of the best teams in Europe and they probably see themselves as a Champions League side.
“In terms of saying they are group favourites; I think Betis are a really strong team, Ferencvaros certainly gave Leverkusen a good contest in their first game, so that will pan out over time.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging group when we saw draw.
“If you want to progress, the key does become winning your home games irrespective of other results. If you can pick up points at home, then that gives you a chance.
“The narrative around us just now is that we’re struggling but in terms of our performances I don’t quite see it that way.
“I think we showed against Real Betis away from home that we played some great football, dominated parts of the game and gave a good account of ourselves.
“It was a fantastic performance despite the result, and I know we have that type of performance in us. We need to be really positive about our intent and try and take it to a good opponent.
“We want to take the game to them. We know we’re going to get tested. Hopefully it’s a great occasion for our supporters to get excited about.”
Postecoglou excepts his side have been lacking sharpness in the final third of the pitch, but admitted that was inevitable given the amount of players that remain unavailable for selection.
He stated: “I don’t expect we’ll make too many changes from Sunday because of the cycle we’ve been in.
“We are going through a challenging period, and that’s not me trying to paint a bleak picture, it’s just the situation we’re in.
“We haven’t really had a chance to settle since the beginning because the first phase we were bringing guys in and literally playing them without much training.
“The second phase, we’ve been hit pretty hard by injuries, but these things can happen during the season.
“We’re missing significant players in certain areas of the park which exasperates the problem.
“We just haven’t had the chance to freshen some of these guys up. The likes of Jota, Liel (Abada), Ajeti, are playing game after game and you know in the front third you need that cutting edge.
“We’re creating opportunities but are just lacking that energy and sharpness, which is understandable considering the workload we have put on the players we’ve got available.”
In the absence of skipper Callum McGregor, goalkeeper Joe Hart has been passed on the armband and Postecoglou was admitted the decision was a no-brainer.
He admitted; “Joe has been great. He’s obviously a very experienced goalkeeper but is new to the club and he’s been very respectful of the fact he’s recently joined us.
“He understood when we brought him in it was because of his experience and the teams we have been putting out have been relatively young in terms of overall age.
“Having someone like Joe who has played at the highest level certainly helps.”