BRENDAN Rodgers last night praised the progress Celtic have made in Champions League this season despite seeing their chances of progressing to the knockout rounds ended by defeat to Barcelona.

Two goals from Lionel Messi secured a 2-0 triumph for the Nou Camp club at Parkhead that booked their place in the last 16 of Europe’s premier club competition.

The victory also meant that their opponents will be unable to even finish third ahead of Borussia Moenchengladbach in Group C and go through to the last 32 of the Europa League.

However, Rodgers was pleased with how his side, who had been thrashed by a record 7-0 scoreline in their opening game against Barcelona back in September, performed in their penultimate match.

He has urged his side to follow up this campaign by winning a sixth consecutive Scottish title and getting back into the Champions League group stages again next season.

“This experience, with one game to go, was always going to be invaluable for us,” he said. "There are lot of young players in the team who will improve, especially when you look at our first game compared to now.

“We were not fearful. We went into the game with good ideas of how to press the game, tactically. It’s just about maintaining the standard. How do you maintain it? It’s just your demands every day in training.

“We have played three of the best teams in Europe over the course of this competition so far and we have gradually got better with each game.

“The challenge is, after Christmas, to keep those demands. We know the level now we are in it, it gets better every year and we now have to go on and make sure we can get into it next year. Each year we are in it, the club improves on and off the field and that is our ambition.

“At times some of our play was very, very good. We just lacked that cutting edge, that bit of quality, right at the end to finish."

Meanwhile, Rodgers claimed that Luis Suarez, the Barcelona striker who he had worked during his time at Liverpool, had fooled referee Daniel Orsato into awarding the visitors the penalty that Messi scored his second goal from.

"I didn't think it was a penalty,” he said. "I think what Luis is brilliant at is being in and around the box. He provokes defenders and I think he was leaning into Emilio who tried to fight for his space.

"What Luis is clever at, is that he'll grab hold of the defender and spin around and make it look like he's pulled to the ground. So, no, I didn't think it was a penalty and it was a key moment in the game.

"It was at the start of the second half when we were pressing and getting into good areas. The momentum was clearly with us. Listen, they clearly have quality, but at 1-0 we were always in the game.

"So for them to get to 2-0 - after we'd just missed a chance with a header - was disappointing. But the referee didn't give us so much during the game, I didn't think. But that's the way it goes sometimes."

Scott Sinclair failed to reappear for the second half after suffering a hamstring strain and is now a doubt for the Betfred Cup final against Aberdeen at Hampden on Sunday.

Rodgers said: "We'll see how he is. He's very robust, Scotty, so when he had to come off he was hurting. But he got caught when he was breaking through. We'll just need to see with that one.

"We didn't want to take any risk with him. He was in pain and while I know him well enough to know he will fight through pain, it wasn't one which as worth the risk. We'll just need to see how he is tomorrow."