Oliver Burke, on-loan at Celtic from West Brom until the end of the season, has insisted that the Parkhead side will go to Valencia this week to play for their pride.
Brendan Rodgers’ side trail the Spaniards 2-0 after a comfortable first leg victory for Valencia in the opening leg of the last 32 Europa League tie at Celtic Park last week.
The La Liga side are fully expected to formalise their passage into the last 16 of Europe’s second tier tournament, but Burke is looking to put in a decent shift in the Mestalla stadium this week as he looks for Celtic to muster some resistance. Celtic fly out tomorrow for a return leg that on paper looks to be a daunting task but Burke is looking to use the game as an opportunity for Celtic to show they are better than their first-leg performance would suggest.
“It is definitely about pride,” said the 21-year-old. “We have to go there and show we are capable and show what we can do.
“Fingers crossed we can get a result and then see what happens.
“The boys are all really looking forward to going there. Obviously we were beaten in the first leg but we will all get behind each other and hopefully we can kick on.”
Burke started the Europa League tie at Celtic Park, a game that marked his inaugural bow in European competition, and despite the difficulty of his shift, he has maintained that his all-round education was enhanced by the experience.
Deployed as a striker for the game, Burke was left isolated for much of it as Celtic found themselves drowning under repeated waves of Valencia attacks. The Scotland internationalist sat out the weekend win over Kilmarnock as Celtic opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table with Odsonne Edouard asked to lead the line.
Celtic finished that game at Rugby Park with all three forwards at the club on the pitch – new signing Vakoun Issouf Bayo who has not been registered for the Europa League made his debut while Weah and Burke came off the bench. It remains to be seen what system Rodgers goes for against Valencia as Celtic try to find some kind of equilibrium in a tie that is entirely weighted in the Spaniard’s favour.
“I learned a lot playing against those kinds of players,” said Burke. “They were obviously very big lads and they showed how good they can be.
“It was very difficult up there on my own but I think it’s about me waiting for my opportunity when the boys get on the ball.
“I have to be in the right positions and create the right runs as much as I can. They were the better side the other night but we need to pick heads up and have a go at them in the second leg.
“It was an amazing expedience for me to play at Celtic Park in a big European game. It’s a privilege to be a Celtic player, with massive crowds and great fans.
“This is a huge stage for me. I really enjoyed it – for a while.
“It was pretty sad how it turned out and I was pretty down afterwards. It’s about picking yourselves up to go again.
“It was a really tough night. I was gutted, really. Credit to them, they are a good side and they played very well.
“But we know can do much better than the other night. It was so disappointing but we need to focus on the return and hopefully we can get a result.”
There seemed little compelling evidence in the opening leg to suggest that Celtic can cause any problems for Valencia, although such is the nature of the competition that an early away goal, however unlikely that may appear at the minute, would significantly change the complexion of the game.
In any case, with Celtic looking as though they are on their way out of Europe there is little to lose in trying to salvage something from the tie albeit that there is always a vulnerability then in being too open at the back. Valencia caused problems for Celtic last Thursday night but there was an element of self-destruction in the performance too with the Parkhead midfield in particular guilty of frequently gifting possession.
The quality is a lot better,” said Burke. “They move the ball really well, their organisation is very good, they shifted us and moved us very well. They pressed us and their formation really worked.
“I am sure we can improve though.
“We showed signs we can penetrate and get in behind them. We created a couple of chances and hopefully this time we can get a bit closer and stick a few of them in the back of the net.
“We actually started the game really well and showed what we can do. I don’t know what happened after that but there were things we saw that suggests we can hurt them.
“We need to come together as a team.”