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Celtic reached the Champions League group stage in the last two seasons but the defeat continues a hard start to the season for Brendan Rodgers' team following a 1-0 defeat to Hearts on Saturday.

Celtic suffered a 2-1 defeat to AEK Athens this evening that now sees the Scot's side slip into the Europa League.

The Scottish champions drop down to the Europa League play-off, where they will face Latvian side Spartaks Jurmala or Lithuanian side Suduva, and Rodgers said: "The Europa League is still a prestigious competition".

Celtic picked up €480,000 (£427,716) for losing in the third round of Champions League qualifying. "It's no good for us now, but we'll pick ourselves up and it's important we have European football this year".

Rodgers bemoaned some slack defending for their Champions League exit.

"I thought a lot of our build-up play was worth something from the game but you can't defend that softly", Celtic manager Rodgers told BT Sport.

"When you add that to the goal we conceded in the first leg then we're really disappointed".

Rodgers insisted that Boyata was fit despite claims earlier in the day by the Belgium global, who refused to travel to Athens and is trying to engineer a move, that he was injured.

His agent has also suggested that the defender won't be playing when he is not 100 per cent fit as he doesn't want to risk injury in the final year of his contract with Celtic.

Celtic are bracing themselves for the loss of Dedryck Boyata as Sevilla appear increasingly likely to sign the centre-back.

When asked if this ongoing saga might prove a distraction to his side's mission in Athens, the Hoops boss said: "More sad than a distraction".

"What's going on is that I'm in a special position, and when I hear that I've refused to play since I came back from vacation, it's wrong".


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