IF THERE was a surprise this week as Celtic brushed aside Alashkert in the searing Armenian heat it was not that there was no Gibralter Red Imps re-run.

Rather, the decision to start with two strikers in Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard might have raised a few eyebrows. The latter netted his first European goal for the club while the former looked in the kind of menacing form that was the hallmark of his opening season at Celtic.

It remains to be seen if there is more of the same expected as the campaign gets underway. Rodgers has favoured a loan striker with two wingers supplementing an attacking formation with midfield players also making an impact in the final third.

Yet, both Edouard and Dembele are highly rated by Rodgers and it will be interesting to chart if there is a difference in Celtic’s style as the games start to come thick and fast over the coming weeks.

“Odsonne and Moussa have played together before in a different sort of structure in the team,” explained Rodgers. “There’s a respect there for each other’s talents.

“They are quite synchronised in how they work at times. Odsonne can play off the left side a little bit as well but they looked a real handful and threat.

“This is a period where we’re looking at various thinks within our tactics that can hopefully help us going forward and in the games they’ve played together they’ve looked everything you’d want: fast, strong, dynamic and quality.”

Both players found themselves making news headlines this week in the immediate aftermath of Celtic’s 3-0 win in their opening Champions League qualifier. Dembele was believed to be driving a little behind Edouard and Olivier Ntcham when the duo were involved in a collision with another vehicle but Rodgers has insisted that there is no lingering ill-effects on either the players or the driver of the other car.

“The guys thankfully were fine and the guy in the other car was too,” he said. “It was obviously a scare for them. There’s not too much we can say as it’s under investigation but there are no injuries.”

Rodgers more immediate concern now is in trying to ensure that Celtic make it into the Champions League group stages for the third successive season.

This is the most arduous route the Parkhead side have faced with four qualification rounds to negotiate but Rodgers will look to the experience of the last two successful campaigns as a springboard to making it back into elite company.

“I could tell in the first five minutes of the game the other day that that team were a step up from any of the opening games I’d been involved in since came here,” he said.

“It was just in terms of the speed of their game, the intensity with which they tried to press early on and the conditions. It was going to be a difficult game for us.

“So it was really a mark of where our players are at in terms of their mentality and fitness. We withstood that. Our preparation has been to try and fast-track them into 90 minutes.

“When we were away, we played two 90 minutes and I think that really helped the players especially in the heat of Austria.

“To score a couple of goals late on is always a good sign of a team’s mental and physical fitness. So, yes, it was a very good result for us and performance at this stage of the season. We’ll never be perfect but it gives us a nice advantage coming to play at home.”

The expectation is that Celtic will face Rosenborg in the next round. It would be a familiar foe for the club who met in the qualifiers last term too but the Norwegians defeat to Iceland part-timers Valur this week offered an insight into the dangers of taking anything as read at this stage.

Valur’s 1-0 lead is expected to be overturned in Trondheim this coming week but the defeat for the Norwegians perhaps offers a framework for the professionalism of Celtic’s performance this week.

“It just shows you,” said Rodgers. “Everyone is probably looking at Rosenborg as being the favourites but it’s a real treacherous period to be playing your games.

“Rosenborg are obviously in season as well. We’ll see how that evolves and whoever we play, if we get through, we’ll meet the challenge.”

Meanwhile, the Celtic manager has insisted that Scotland must use the performance of Croatia at this summer’s World Cup as inspiration for how to rebuild the game.

With a population of just 4 million, Croatia have made it to the World Cup final but it is has been their sustained exposure to major tournaments that Rodgers has insisted is something that Scotland need to take note of.

“People will look to the likes of Germany and Brazil and the big countries but if you’re a small nation it’s probably worthwhile looking at Croatia and Uruguay to see what they’re doing,” he said.

“Consistently now Croatia have, over a period of years, produced teams that have consistently qualified and now they’re in a World Cup final.

“I’ve been very impressed by that for a really small country. They’ve produced players like Vedran Corluka who came on in the semi-final and Dejan Lovren is in their playing, Ivan Perisic.

“You could go through the squad - very talented players. It should give a great inspiration to countries like Scotland as they’re showing it can be done.

“I haven’t personally studied what they do but from a distance I’ve always been impressed by the level of players they can produce.

“It can’t be an accident, not when you’re sustaining it and qualifying regularly for European Championships and World Cups.

“They clearly have a spirit to fight, certainly in my experience of working with players from Croatia and Serbia, they have a passion in playing for their country but individually they want to fight.

“And they play a really good level technical game. A lot of them come from a real good technical base and they’re very impressive. "