BRENDAN Rodgers, the Celtic manager, says that Oliver Burke’s ‘frightening’ pace will be difficult for Valencia – or any defence – to handle.
The on-loan West Brom man dazzled as he set up two goals in Celtic’s 5-0 thumping of St Johnstone yesterday to move into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
Rodgers was bowled over by the display of pace and power that Burke put on, with the visiting defence unable to live with the physical threat posed by the Scotland internationalist.
“Oli has shown and started to progress as we thought he could,” Rodgers said. “He has wonderful attributes and his pressing sets a real tone.
“He’ll be difficult to play against because the one thing that frightens defenders is pace. The speed he showed for Scott (Sinclair)’s first goal and the second one in behind is frightening really.
“It’s a joy to watch a Scottish player with that physicality and quality. There are things that he continues to work on, but he’s doing exceptionally well, and he has to keep improving.”
Burke has become an integral part of the Celtic attack since his January arrival, with main striker Odsonne Edouard still recovering his match sharpness after an injury lay-off.
Burke went through his own injury scare yesterday as he hobbled off in the second half of the St Johnstone match, but Rodgers is confident he will be passed fit to face Valencia.
“He took a knock to his ankle,” Rodgers said. “We hope he’ll be okay.
“You see his intensity and the threat he gives us. He was absolutely fantastic. He should be okay for Thursday.”
Celtic captain Scott Brown, who got his side’s second goal against St Johnstone with an outstanding strike from 25 yards, says that Burke is the fastest striker he has ever played with throughout his career, and agrees his pace is an asset that will scare their Spanish opposition on Thursday.
“In terms of pace and power he’s by far the quickest I’ve played with up there,” Brown said.
“His ball to Scotty, it’s great to actually see someone create something from nothing. He touches it past the guy and then he knows nine times out of 10 he will beat a defender for pace. Scotty is in the right place at the right time as well.
“People won’t keep a high line because of that pace. Our three forwards with Scotty and Jamesy (Forrest), as well as Timo (Weah) coming on as well, we’ve got pace everywhere and that scares people more than anything.
“If people want to press the game then you’ve got that long pass in behind for them to take up and the way they are all playing just now – they are in great form – you’d fancy them to score goals.”
Brown is relishing the chance to welcome European football back to Celtic Park.
“Our fans are fantastic and that’s what we want, the big European nights,” he said.
“We want to be in the Champions League next season ,and we need to try and show that on Thursday night that we’re good enough to play in these competitions.”