Jozo Simunovic predicted on Tuesday night that Celtic’s French strikers Odsonne Edouard and Moussa Dembele can tear up the Champions League.
On the night Edouard sent Celtic on their way to a 3-0 first leg win over Alashkert, the £9million former PSG foward’s partnership with Dembele caught fire.
Late goals from James Forrest and Callum McGregor in Yerevan rendered next week’s return with the Armenians in Glasgow a formality although Celtic still face three further qualifying rounds to make the group stages.
Jozo Simunovic said Odsonne Edouard and Moussa Dembele can tear up Champions League
If they get there, Simunovic is convinced the 3-5-2 formation which pairs both Frenchmen has the capacity to wreak havoc around Europe.
‘They have showed they can cause teams problems playing together in Europe this season,’ said the defender. ‘They showed they have everything tonight. And I’m sure they are going to show more.
‘Keeping them together isn’t a question for me. You would have to ask Peter (Lawwell). But both working together could be incredible for Celtic. They are very important for us. I’m sure they are happy here and want to play in the Champions League.’
Despite the temperature in the Armenian capital remaining above 30 degrees throughout the match, Celtic finished the stronger of the two sides.
And after watching two goals in the final nine minutes all but put the tie beyond Alashkert, Brendan Rodgers lauded his players for the work they put in to pre-season training.
‘When you can score late goals like we did it tells you everything about the fitness, and to do that in these conditions also says a lot,’ said the Celtic boss.
Edouard sent Celtic on their way to a 3-0 first leg win over Alashkert on Tuesday night
‘We pride ourselves on how hard we work, how hard we run, and the intensity of our game. It’s a huge testament to how focused and how concentrated and fit they are at this point and there is still a long way to go for them. It was evident in a game that had some meaning to it and that really pleases me.
‘It was very hot, especially for us and we were only watching. I take my hat off to my players because they played in conditions we are certainly not used to but they coped with it very well. They showed a real strong mentality.’
Alashkert gave as good as they got until Edouard put the visitors in front on the stoke of half-time.
‘I think we expected the home team, who are midway through their season, to have a real intensity to their game in the first ten or 15 minutes,’ said Rodgers.
‘So we had to withstand that pressure. But as the half grew we also created chances as well.
Simunovic believes 3-5-2 formation which pairs both has capacity to wreak havoc in Europe
‘We were playing a good team, who are the champions of their country, and who you can see have some fast players.
‘This is the best team we have played in the first round in my three years of qualifying campaigns. Very fast, good technical players, and it was important we stayed focused.
‘We just had to adjust one or two items defensively in the team, in order to shorten the pitch and put a little bit more pressure on the ball. In the second half it was just about finding the spaces to control the game.
‘We had to build the game a little better, we were trying to score too quickly in the first half. In the second half we could control the ball and we felt if we could get into the right areas of the field that could open up Alashkert and then we could exploit the space in between the defensive lines.
‘It was just really about control, staying calm with the players, but also asking for more from the performance.’