BRENDAN Rodgers last night vowed that Celtic will never shy away from the huge challenge they face competing with Europe’s elite despite the ever-widening gulf between the Scottish champions and the leading clubs in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The Ladbrokes Premiership leaders are facing an exit from the Europa League after being outclassed by La Liga rivals Valencia in the the first leg of their last 32 double header at Parkhead on Thursday night and slumping to a 2-0 defeat.

The Glasgow club must now triumph in Spain for the first time in their history on Thursday in order to progress to the next round of the competition.

Rodgers, who could have left back Kieran Tierney available for the match in the Mestalla, is refusing to accept that his side can’t go through and is adamant that scoring an early goal will change the complexion of the tie.

The Northern Irishman, whose team beat Bundesliga high flyers RB Leipzig at home in the group stages of the Europa League last year, stressed that Celtic will always endeavour to compete against richer opponents with larger transfer budgets.

“It’s a huge challenge,” he said. “You only have to look at the quality of teams you meet at this level. But we accept the challenge.

“We’ve done great to get out our group with the teams that were there. Every game is a learning game for us. They (Valencia) are a good side in their own domestic league and at this level of competition. But we can be better, it’s as simple as that.”

Valencia manager Marcelino brought on his record €40 million summer signing Goncalo Guedes after his side went two ahead at Celtic Park on Thursday night. Rodgers said: “It’s a different sport isn’t it? But we have to get on with it and just do our very, very best.

“It shows how a number of mistakes affect the momentum at that level. It was basic mistakes – passing the ball out under no pressure - and we had to try and respond. It can affect your belief and after a good 15 minutes we built the pressure on ourselves. It wasn’t the crowd – they were magnificent – we put it on ourselves.

“That’s when you need the personality to take the ball with one, two or three touches and ease your way up the park against a good team where there’s not a lot of space.

“They sat in tight and we had to try and work it rather than forcing it. If you move them across they still have the agility to get across and close the gaps.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers is confident that Celtic won’t be affected by the Valencia defeat in their Premiership game against Kilmarnock tomorrow and can win at Rugby Park and maintain their six point lead over Rangers.

“The beauty of this group is that they have always tried to be honest in their reflections on the game knowing there’s another game soon,” he said.

“We didn’t show our true face (against Valencia), but that’s how it goes. We now have to get ready for Sunday. We’ll look at how everyone is, but we’ll make a few changes just to re-energise the team.

“It’s tough with a game a couple of days later, but these boys have been magnificent over the last two and a half years with how they pick themselves up.

“It’s a credit to the guys and we won’t be feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ll re-focus and get back to how we usually play.”

Rodgers added: “Stevie’s teams are compact and tight and there’s never normally many goals down there on a slow surface.

“The pitch can affect the speed of the game, but we have to deal with that and a strong and committed team with good quality. We have to be ready.”