BRENDAN Rodgers has urged his Celtic players to believe they are good enough to overcome their Europa League rivals Valencia – and go all the way in this year’s competition.

The Scottish champions will take on their Spanish rivals in the first leg of their last 32 double header at a packed Parkhead this evening.

Their La Liga opponents are strong favourites to triumph and progress despite their indifferent domestic form – the Mestalla club are in eighth place in their league after drawing 13 of their 23 games.

Rodgers, who will have Oliver Burke, Emilio Izaguirre and Jozo Simunovic available after the trio recovered from injury and illness, admitted it was far harder for the Parkhead club to excel on the continent now than it was when they reached the UEFA Cup final 2003.

However, when asked if he thought Celtic are capable of winning the Europa League, Rodgers said: “You always have to believe you can.

“I think if you look at the teams in it, there’s a real array of top teams. The competition gets stronger each year because now you can qualify for the Champions League. Because of that, there is a real hunger there for teams to do well in it.

“But you always have to go in and do the very best you possibly can. That’s the idea. That’s what we’ll always believe.

“I think we have done really well coming out the group stage. Now we are in against a good side. But I would hate to say getting past Valencia is a measure of success because then you have another round.

“Why can’t you, you know? You always have to believe that you can win every game you play. When it finishes, whenever that is, then you can assess it and look at it. But I wouldn’t like to sit now and say what success is.”

He added: “You have to face the reality of it. We do really well domestically and we go into European football and of course it’s a different level.

“But we are always trying to find a way and never see it as an obstacle. We are just trying to find ways to try and get a result whilst performing to a level supporters expect.

“I just enjoy the challenge of all the competitions, all the games and trying to maximise what we can get out the team.”

Celtic go into he game on the back of impressive form in the Ladbrokes Premiership and William Hill Scottish Cup – they have won all seven of their games since the winter shutdown, scoring 21 goals and not conceding any.

“We have a renewed motivation and energy in the team, which we needed, and the players are playing with confidence,” said Rodgers.

“It makes for a really brilliant game against a really good team. I’m excited about seeing us at this level against a team of Valencia’s quality.

“We looked a wee bit tired before the winter break but now there is a freshness to the team. The boys who have come in have done great. They have given us that quality we wanted from the window.

“This is a challenge for us. I said to the players this morning ‘Listen, we are playing against a good team, everyone recognises that, but let’s not forget we’re a good team as well’.

“That’s why we are at this stage of the competition. We are through on merit. We had good teams in our group and we qualified. We deserve it. So let’s go and attack the game and enjoy it.”

Rodgers confirmed that Kieran Tierney, who has been sidelined since the Europa League game against Salzburg in December, had returned to training, but would not start. The left back, though, has a chance of playing in the second leg in Spain next week.