Europa League: Celtic could catch us cold, warns Zenit's Roberto Mancini

Europa League last-32, first leg: Celtic v Zenit St Petersburg
Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Date: Thursday 15 February Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland MW & DAB and live text on BBC Sport website

Roberto Mancini admits that playing Celtic in Zenit St Petersburg’s first match after a two-month winter shutdown could be a problem for his side.

The Italian head coach led Inter Milan to victory over Celtic the last time the Scottish champions reached the Europa League’s round of 32.

“We know we can have a problem because, for us, it is the first official game for two months,” the Zenit boss said.

“We need to be at our best if we want to get through to the next round.”

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Celtic are dropping down to Uefa’s second-tier tournament after a tough Champions League campaign during which they suffered heavy defeats to Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Zenit, meanwhile, are the Europa League’s top scorers with 17 goals and cantered through their qualifying group undefeated with five wins out of six.

But the Russians have only played friendlies since December and Mancini is wary of Thursday’s first leg in Glasgow.

“Celtic at home is a strong team and also the supporters push the team because the crowd is incredible,” he said.

Europa League: Celtic could catch us cold, warns Zenit's Roberto Mancini

“I think most teams would lose to PSG and Bayern. It was a tough group and they will be better in the Europa League.

“If we are able to win this game, that would be a good result ahead of the second leg next week.

“It is important to try to be offensive and try to score.”

Mancini is well aware of the strengths of Rodgers’ line-up having worked with central defender Dedryck Boyata, winger Scott Sinclair and central midfielder Olivier Ntcham during his stint in charge of Mancheser City.

“Boyata played his first game in Premier League when I was there and got a red card against Arsenal at home, but he was really young at the time,” he recalled.

“I bought Scott from Swansea and he was unlucky as our team was really strong, while Ntcham was just a kid in the second team.

“But they are all good players.”