Opinion: Rodgers must take a risk with Dembele and unleash him from the get-go against AEK Athens

Opinion: Rodgers must take a risk with Dembele and unleash him from the get-go against AEK Athens

It is crunch time for Celtic tonight in the Champions League as they travel to Greece to play AEK Athens in their third qualifying round second-leg clash.

The first encounter between the two sides ended 1-1 after Viktor Klonaridis cancelled out Callum McGregor’s 17th-minute opener at Celtic Park.

And with Konstantinos Galanopoulos having been sent off for a second yellow card in the 53rd minute, Brendan Rodgers would have felt like it was an opportunity missed for his team.

The former Liverpool manager now has it all to do, especially with the possible absence of one of his star players.

The Breakdown

The Daily Record reports Odsonne Edouard sat out of Celtic’s last training session before their gigantic clash, although the reason for Edouard’s absence is not yet known.

Should, however, Edouard be unavailable for tonight’s Champions League game, then it would come as a huge blow to Rodgers with the France striker having been such a key figure for Celtic last season while having started this one off so well.

Edouard has already scored four goals this campaign and the Bhoys could really do with his firepower up front as they look to cancel out AEK Athens’ away goal.

With that mind, Rodgers should strongly consider risking Moussa Dembele from the start. £6.3m-rated (via Transfermarkt) Dembele has been struggling with an ongoing hamstring problem — although he has recently returned back to training — and is not at one hundred percent.

And Rodgers has confirmed that Dembele will only be a substitute (via Sky Sports), as a result. But given how sturdy AEK Athens were in defence in the first leg, the thought of unleashing the 21-year-old from the first minute, regardless of his current fitness status, should not be off the table going into tonight’s game.

Celtic supporters are desperate to see their club progress past the Champions League group stages and, if they want to get anywhere close to that this season, then Dembele must start.

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