BRENDAN Rodgers has challenged Kyogo Furuhashi to emulate legendary Celtic striker Henrik Larsson on the eve of the Parkhead club’s match with Feyenoord – by scoring important goals in Europe over a prolonged period.

Furuhashi has become a huge fans’ favourite at the Glasgow giants since completing a £4.6m move from Vissel Kobe in his native Japan back in 2021 – but he failed to score in any of their six Champions League group games last term.

Rodgers has been hugely impressed with the 28-year-old centre-forward since returning to Glasgow back in June and believes he is more than capable of doing damage against the cream of the continent in the 2023/24 campaign.

In fact, he feels Furuhashi, who signed a four year contract extension during the summer, can be remembered alongside Celtic’s all-time leading European goalscorer Larsson in future if he does so consistently in the coming seasons.  

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“Listen, he’s obviously a top striker,” he said. “What made Henrik unique was his longevity at Celtic. In my time we had Moussa (Dembele), who was fantastic and Griff (Leigh Griffiths) was terrific. Henrik was over a sustained period, and that made him really stand out.

“The comparisons, I think, come with the movement and the levels of finishing. Kyogo is his own player. Henrik was a special player for Celtic and so it Kyogo. It will be longevity that will decide where he compares. It’s also about creating those moments, like Henrik did.”

Rodgers is convinced Furuhashi can get his name on the scoresheet in the opening Group E match against Dutch champions Feyenoord in the De Kuip here in Rotterdam this evening if he receives decent service from his Celtic team mates.

“It’s about opportunity because there’s no doubt he can score goals at this level,” he said. “He’s got the speed and the movement and the finishing. These are his moments.”

The Herald: Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi makes it  2-0 against DundeeMeanwhile, Rodgers has insisted he is better placed as a manager to cope with the Champions League than he was during his first spell in charge of Celtic and admitted he may take a more pragmatic approach in an attempt to secure a place in the knockout rounds.

Rodgers has led the Parkhead club through to the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition twice in the past – but his sides suffered heavy defeats at the hands of continental heavyweights Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain when they got there and were unable to reach the last 16.

However, the Northern Irishman believes he has learned from those campaigns and is well prepared for what lies ahead this term. 

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“The years give you better experience and knowledge helps,” he said. “The outlook for me is that we have to work very hard and be very smart in our play to achieve at this level because of what we are playing against.

“In terms of me as a coach, in terms of all the experience and games I have had playing against top teams, then of course you learn from those experiences. But for us it’s about educated pressure. You look into each game and what the needs are for each game. Our ultimate feeling is that we want to qualify”.

Rodgers recalled how a Premier League win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in 2020 during his time as manager at Leicester City had made him realise that is sometimes makes sense to deploy more defensive tactics against quality opposition.

“I felt at that game if we went toe-to-toe to play Manchester City at their game there was a big chance that they would win,” he said. “I could have turned around and said, ‘Yeah, but we tried how we play’.

“I wanted us to impose our way of playing, of course, but from a defensive perspective it is about closing spaces where normally you would go and press. It’s about finding the balance.

“We have anticipation, but certainly not trepidation. This is where you want to be as a player, a coach or manager. At the highest level in club football in Europe and to have that opportunity is really exciting.”

The Herald: