LIONEL MESSI called it the best atmosphere in Europe. Xavi Hernandez said it was the best he had ever witnessed. Paolo Maldini said that every player should look to play there at least once. Toni Kroos said it was his favourite away ground. Cristiano Ronaldo said the fans are ‘incredible’, and that ‘it’s always great to play there’.

Within that praise for Celtic Park though, perhaps lies the rub. While warm words from the world’s best players are nice to hear, it could be argued that the opposition have become just a little too comfortable on the park, allowing them to enjoy the sights and sounds of the famous old venue.

And not only the great and the good of the game either. The also-rans – at least in European terms – have also enjoyed themselves in Glasgow’s East End, with such luminaries as Ferencvaros, Sparta Prague, Bodo/Glimt and CFR Cluj all winning at Celtic Park in recent years.

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In Champions League terms though, the stats make for even starker reading from a Celtic point of view. It has been 10 years and 10 Champions League group stage matches since Celtic triumphed at that level on home soil with a win over Ajax back in October of 2013.

Brendan Rodgers is out to change all that, and he has challenged his players to match the intensity that is guaranteed to come from the stands on the pitch when Lazio come calling this evening, and make sure Celtic Park is restored as a venue to fear rather than a tourist attraction.

The instruction will be to go full throttle from the start, and try to throttle the Italians in the process.

“Absolutely, and that’s what can spook an opponent,” Rodgers said.

“You can be a really calm player, but I’ve not seen a player who, under real pressure from a crowd and players doubling up against him, copes comfortably with that - and the whole idea is to make it as uncomfortable as we can.

“We have the support, we have a technical team who are understanding the aggression and pressing - and how to do that better. If you can add that there together and then from that - the reason why you do it - is to create chances.

“I think when players come away from here, even if they have lost, they know the atmosphere they’ve experienced. They sense it and they feel it. But, for me, it’s not just about the occasion. It’s about the result.

“When we played Man City here [in 2016] it was a great occasion and a memorable game - but we got something from it. You don’t want to be coming off and not having anything to show for it.

“We are lucky here that the noise that rolls down on to the pitch is great. But then you have to produce on the pitch as well.

“When teams are close that extra push can get you over the line. So, we are hoping we can do that.

“The atmosphere here will be amazing and I can’t wait for it. But we want to give the supporters something in the stands to sing about as well. That will stem from our performance.

“We know we are not going to have it all our own way, but we can certainly make it a really difficult 90 minutes plus for Lazio.

“The combination of us and the supporters can make it really uncomfortable. And that’s what we want to do.”

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The Manchester City game Rodgers references was his first at that level as Celtic manager, a barnstorming 3-3 draw against Pep Guardiola’s superstars that provides the perfect template for what his side are hoping to produce this evening.

The gap though, which was understood to be cavernous even back then, is only getting wider between Europe’s relative haves and have-nots. So Rodgers - so cocksure in his all-out attacking approach in the lead up to that match seven years ago - now seems a little wiser through experience when it comes to how he will set his team up.

“I’m realistic as well,” he said.

“You are judging this over a time when the game has moved on so much. You are talking about a decade since the last win here, well where has football gone in the last 10 years?

“The elite has moved away from Scottish football economically. But it still doesn’t quell our ambition to get those victories.

“There have been some really good games here, but sometimes the level of quality has just been better.

“The team played really well here against Real Madrid for the first hour and couldn’t score and you end up losing the game to quality. That’s what this competition is, but we will be ready to fight in every game.

“The recipe for this game is having that bravery to go and show our quality and everything that we want to do and not allow them to do the things they do want to do.

“If we can do that over the course of this competition then hopefully we can give the supporters a win to cherish here sooner rather than later.

“Of course I am a realist and I want to win. You’ve seen in the last decade that teams have gone all in, and [teams have] defended, and you still lose. We showed in the first game that we can be a threat.

“It will never flip to us sitting really low. Sometimes you can get forced into that because quality can push you back.

“But our whole idea is, I’m not a coach who likes to wait. I like to be proactive in the game, I like to go and make it really uncomfortable. My experiences tell me if you give good players too much time then they will hurt you.

“So, the game is simple. Can you deny the opposition space to play and do it as high and aggressively as you can? When you can’t do it high up you might have to do it deeper sometimes. It’s educated pressure really.”

That would point to a departure from Ange Postecoglou’s attack at all costs philosophy, that while thrilling at this level last season, ultimately came unstuck.

“I just think that each day and each game that has gone by, we’re just improving and developing and that’s what I expect,” Rodgers added.

“I’ve not asked too many different things of them to what Ange has asked of them before, but there are certain elements that I bring my own stamp to it.

“I am an offensive, aggressive, attacking coach - but I like to have control. You know, I don’t like to be flying by the seat of my pants and let it become a basketball game.

"I like to have an element of control to the game, whether it’s with or without the ball.”