Brendan Rodgers slams Celtic defending in AEK Athens loss

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Celtic's Champions League hopes were ended after a 2-1 qualifying defeat by AEK Athens in Greece saw them lose 3-2 on aggregate.

Celtic have missed out on the Champions League group stages for the first time in three seasons under Brendan Rodgers.

As a result Celtic are down in 6th in the league - albeit there have only be two games - while Parkhead will fail to play host to Champions League group stage football for the first time in the Rodgers era.

Rodrigo Galo scored after six minutes for AEK and Marko Livaja made it 2-0 five minutes after half-time.

Rodgers admitted it was "very difficult" to get his head around his side's defending which left them in a Europa League play-off spot where they will play Latvian side Spartaks Jurmala or Lithuanian side Suduva.

Fit-again striker Moussa Dembele returned to the bench, however, but with Kristoffer Ajer suspended and fellow defender Dedryck Boyata missing through injury and amid speculation about his future, Rodgers paired Jozo Simunovic with Jack Hendry in central defence.

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"I thought a lot of our build-up play in that final third was worthy of something from the game, but you can't defend that softly and in the end we were punished for it".

"You only need to look at Liverpool, who got to the Champions League final and invested the money they had to be stronger. It's no good for us now, but we'll pick ourselves up and it's important we have European football this year".

"But we will go away and work with the players we have, try to improve and make them better".

The situation surrounding Dedryck Boyata has taken another twist, with Rodgers confirming he was fit to face AEK despite the Belgian's post on Instagram. My concentration and focus really is just to prepare the team for what is a big game and a fantastic game for us.

There are players we've kept, but obviously getting other players in.

Asked if he felt frustrated on a night where defensive inadequacies proved costly, the Northern Irishman said: "Yes, of course".

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