CELTIC'S slender hopes of progressing to the knockout rounds of a European competition this season may have been ended by the Champions  League defeat they suffered at the hands of Lazio in Rome at the end of last month. 

But Brendan Rodgers will still field a full strength side in the final Group E encounter with Feyenoord at Parkhead on Wednesday night and make sure his charges are fully fired up before kick-off. 

Rodgers has, like so many supporters, been disappointed the Scottish champions have, despite performing well at times during the past three months, just a point to show for their efforts. 

He is keen for Celtic to finish with a flourish against their Dutch rivals, record their first win in the tournament proper since their triumph over Anderlecht six years ago and show that they belong among the continent's elite clubs.  

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"Clearly it’s one we need and want to take something from," he said at Lennoxtown on Friday as he looked back and reflected on what has been a frustrating campaign.  

"It’s a real challenging level. We have shown in spells over the games that we can really compete. But it would be nice to get a complete performance in that competition, see if we can pick up the result. 

"Nothing may be at stake, but every game is vital from a football perspective. Every point is a financial game for the club and pride is also there to play for. 

"We have shown a lot in spells, whether it was Feyenoord away for a half or Atletico Madrid for the full game here. Okay, we lost to Lazio at home, but, again, there were periods in there, right up until the last 10 minutes in fact.

"Away at Atletico we started with authority and then we conceded. So we have been competitive, but you want to be more than that. You want to arrive in European football after Christmas and for that we will need to improve. 

"In terms of the squad, we haven’t quite had the players we’d want available for all the games. So there are definitely improvements we can make.” 

The Herald: The Champions League will change next season following a decision by the UEFA executive committee last year and the 36 participating clubs - a rise from 32 - will each play eight games, not six.

Rodgers believes the new Swiss model format could work in Celtic's favour and knows it is important for his players to gain further experience of facing top level European opposition ahead of it - even though he is sure to strength his squad with quality reinforcements in January and the summer.  

"First and foremost, you want to make sure you are in it," he said. "But I think it will be a good. More games, going from six to eight games will clearly help in every aspect, finance, revenue. 

"But eight different opponents certainly enhances the experiences of the players. I believe will be better. I will have been in here a year and we will have assessed lots of the players and some of the young guys who come in. 

"By the time next summer comes there will be a clearer picture in terms of where we are at as a squad. But in the meantime it’s about working with the guys who are here. 

"Domestically, in the main, they have been consistently good. They have had the odd disappointment in terms of performance which is only natural. But we are still winning without for me, feeling like we are near where I want us to be." 

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One Celtic player who could well feature in the Champions League next season if the Parkhead club retain the cinch Premiership trophy this term is Tomoki Iwata. 

The Japanese internationalist made his first start of the 2023/24 campaign in the league meeting with on-form Hibernian in Glasgow in midweek and performed well in the defensive midfielder role. 

Rodgers has fielded a number of players in the pivotal position since Reo Hatate picked up his injury - Paulo Bernardo, David Turnbull and Odin Thiago Holm have all had chances there in the past few weeks.

But Iwata, who Rodgers revealed would have started against Lazio in Italy if he had been fit, played with intelligence and confidence in the middle of the park and impressed his manager greatly. 

The Northern Irishman, whose team take on Kilmarnock in the Premiership on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park this afternoon, is hopeful the 26-year-old can build on his encouraging showing and establish himself as an automatic starter.  

"Even the best teams need someone who can win the ball and that’s what he is," he said. "He’s very good in that aspect and technically strong. He is efficient with the ball and aggressive. 

"He recovers the ball well and allows the other guys to have that freedom in front. He is very strong, good in counter-pressing. And he is brave. He has trained ever so well which gives me great confidence in his attitude. 

"Even though he has not played so much, he has never thrown the towel in and said, ‘I’m ready for a move’. His attitude has been first-class which is why I trust him."

Tomoki Iwata and all of his Celtic team mates will need to show the correct attitude when their final Champions League group game against Feyenoord kicks off at Parkhead on Wednesday night even though it will be their final outing in Europe this season. 

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