Celtic start their Champions League campaign on Tuesday night against Paris Saint-Germain, in what will be a red-hot atmosphere at Celtic Park. The big spending French side boast some of the best talents in world football with the likes of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe coming up against the Hoops.
Founded in 1970, PSG who were seeded in Pot 2, failed to win the Ligue 1 title last season losing out to a highly impressive Monaco side. Having only won the league six times in their 47 year history, investment from Qatari business owners in recent seasons has propelled PSG to become an elite team within European football. Currently the French side are top of their league having won all five games, scoring 19 and conceding just three goals.
PSG are no strangers to Europe’s elite competition with the French side continuously reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League. Having been spectacularly put out of the last-16 by Barcelona last season, the Parisians had previously reached the quarter-final stage for four consecutive campaigns.
PSG also finished second in their group last season but did not lose a single match. In a group with Arsenal, Basel and Ludogorets, they managed to win two of their three away group games with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal thwarting them of a perfect away record. PSG also managed to score in every group stage match last season, but did conceded in every away game they played.
Of course this isn’t the first time the two teams have met in European competition. In the 1995/96 season, PSG knocked out Celtic in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup winning 1-0 in Paris before easing to a 3-0 away win at Parkhead. PSG then went onto win the tournament that season beating Rapid Wien 1-0 in the final. As a result of winning the Cup Winners Cup, PSG then went onto win the Uefa Super Cup and five years later won Intertoto Cup in 2001.
PSG have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal but they will be without Angel Di Maria, who suffered a muscle injury away on international duty. However without the Argentine, they still have incredible firepower up top. Neymar is the stand out player who may be tricky customer for the Hoops on Tuesday night.
The Brazilian became the world’s most expensive footballer in the summer when he was bought by PSG for a staggering £198 million. Neymar and Celtic have previous history in the Champions League. The forward has scored four times against the Hoops and has been a constant thorn in recent years.
As well as new arrival Neymar, French wonder kid Mbappe also signed for PSG in the summer. Mbappe is on loan from Monaco until the end of the season before PSG pay the agreed option to buy fee of £166m. Mbappe’s pace and power could be an issue for the Bhoys. The hitman scored an impressive six goals in the Champions League last season, firing Monaco all the way to the semi-finals of the competition and help dump Manchester City out of last years competition.
Cavani is the final piece of the trio up front and is likely to start in Glasgow on Tuesday. The striker who has consistently been prolific for PSG for seasons will be the main threat when the Parisians come to Celtic Park. The Uruguayan forward scored eight goals in Champions League last season – only Ronaldo and Messi managed to score more.
PSG line-up in last league match vs FC Metz (4-2-3-1): Areola (GK); Yuri Berchiche (LB) Kimpbembe (CB) Marquinhos (CB) Meunier (RB); Rabiot (CDM) Motta (CDM); Neymar (LW) Mbappe (CAM) Draxler (RW); Cavani (ST)
Where the match may be won or lost
Celtic go into the match against PSG having won two of their last six home games in European competition. While away European form has improved since Brendan Rodgers’ arrival, he may feel his side could more at home on the European stage. His side’s impressive 5-0 win at home to Astana could also be the catalyst in starting to make Celtic Park a fortress again in Europe.
There is no doubt that PSG have a lot of firepower up top which could be a massive concern given the Hoops current centre-back crisis. With Dedryck Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko resuming training but still ruled out of action, Rodgers will have big decision to make as to who will start alongside Jozo Simunovic.
In a game like this it is key to have the defence and midfield working in sync to track runners from the PSG midfield and attack. That is why Nir Bitton may not be the best option at the heart of the defence as the Israeli isn’t a natural centre-back and has been suspect when Celtic are put under pressure by the opposition. Rodgers may also look at Mikael Lustig or Kieran Tierney at the heart of the defence to provide more stability.
Lustig at centre-back could see the reintroduction of Cristian Gamboa at right-back, who could be a vital asset to the Celtic side given his pace. The Costa Rican played 160 minutes for his country over the international break, but has yet to feature this season for the Hoops, making the bench on two occasions. Neymar has always had the better of the Swede in the pace department and Gamboa could be used to match him for pace on Celtic’s right flank. Kristoffer Ajer could also be an option too, as well as the youngster Anthony Ralston potentially playing at right-back.
In the heart of the middle Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown are almost certain to play together. Both players have formed a good partnership in the midfield but it is who accompanies which is the question. Will Rodgers go for a number 10 in McGregor or Rogic? Or will he go for Armstrong in the middle to give Celtic drive and energy into what will be an draining 90 mins for the Hoops. Armstrong, who played well at Hamilton may get the nod given that PSG could revert to a three man midfield on Tuesday with Rodgers wanting to match the French giants.
Up top Celtic have more than enough variety around their attacking options and most fans will admit that the attack is probably the best it has been in years. Rodgers has two options in Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard for Tuesday and Moussa Demebele could also potentially make a return to the side against his former club. Patrick Roberts and Scott Sinclair will be the preferred choices out wide, while James Forrest could offer more stability down the right side to double up on Neymar.
The key element for Celtic though is to keep the game alive as much as possible for the duration of the first half. Ideally if the Bhoys can get into the break drawing or winning at half-time, it will heap pressure on big spending PSG. Captain Thiago Silva missed Friday’s win over Metz and they will hope he is fit enough to start as the defence looked vulnerable and the ‘keeper was unconvincing at times in their 5-1 win.
The crowd always have a part to play in being the 12th man on the field. Last season it was clear to see the energy in the side and fans when they scored in the opening minutes of each half against Manchester City. Brendan Rodgers will want to replicate this on Tuesday.
A with a bit of luck and an organised team, Celtic could get a result to get them off to the perfect start in the Champions League this season.