PSG blazing Champions League trail, but domestic demands might aid Celtic

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Paris St-Germain strikers Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani
PSG invested heavily in strikers Neymar (left) and Kylian Mbappe (centre) during the summer
Champions League Group B: Paris St-Germain v Celtic
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris Date: Wednesday 22 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland MW and BBC Sport website

Celtic need only look back 10 weeks for fair warning about the capacity of Paris St-Germain's ferocity.

Their record home European defeat was inflicted by the French money-bags who have taken fantasy football to a whole new level thanks to their Qatari cash injection.

PSG's chairman and chief executive officer, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has taken it upon himself to redefine the meaning of being a European football superpower.

Once upon a time, it was the total football of Johan Cruyff, or the genius of Brian Clough and his Nottingham Forest side, or more recently the magic of Lionel Messi that brought top-level continental success.

In 2017, PSG have one main mission: to use their financial strength to win the Champions League and leave a trail of devastation in their wake.

Paris St-Germain striker Edinson Cavani
PSG striker Edinson Cavani scored twice in the 5-0 win over Celtic in September

That trail is already ablaze thanks to a spectacular group-stage campaign in which they have scored 17 goals, without conceding any, in four matches.

The challenge for the Scottish champions on Wednesday is an awesome one, yet these are the kind of nights they yearned for in the years before Brendan Rodgers.

While out of the competition, with two games to play, Rodgers will see this as an opportunity for his players to be schooled; after all, he compared their display in the 5-0 loss to PSG in Glasgow in September to that of 12-year-olds.

But, in many respects, it is a pressure-less assignment in the Parc des Princes, with goalkeeper Craig Gordon and captain Scott Brown returning to the scene of one of Scotland's finest moments for the first time since James McFadden's famous strike for Scotland sank the French a decade ago.

And one peek at the Ligue 1 fixture list may offer some encouragement to the Scottish champions.

Paris St-Germain midfielder Javier Pastore
PSG midfielder Javier Pastore was among the scorers in Saturday's 4-1 win over Nantes

When Bayern Munich arrived at Celtic Park, they made no secret of the fact that precedence was being given to their subsequent league match - a top-of-the-table "Der Klassiker" with Borussia Dortmund.

And, just four days after Celtic have visited the French capital, PSG will make the trip south to take on second-placed defending French champions Monaco.

While they have invested heavily to win the Champions League, PSG are already through to the last 16 and could decide the time has arrived to rest some legs ahead of a game after which they could move nine points clear of their rivals from the principality.

Indeed, in the wake of their comfortable 4-1 victory over Nantes on Saturday, Monaco was all anyone could talk about.

PSG's chairman and chief executive officer Nasser Al-Khelaifi
PSG chairman and chief executive officer Nasser Al-Khelaifi says accusations of overspending on the likes of Neymar are caused by jealousy

Coach Unai Emery said: "Next week will be a big match away to Monaco - they are an excellent team."

Top scorer Edinson Cavani weighed in: "We played a great game today. We weren't thinking about next weekend's match."

PSG will want to win the group ahead of Bayern, but can Celtic take advantage of a game the hosts could probably do without and seal third place in their group and a place in the Europa League?

The facts don't offer much in the way of encouragement, even if Rodgers ended Celtic's lingering travel sickness with victory against Anderlecht in Brussels on an earlier Group B expedition.

  • In their nine home games this season, PSG have scored 32 times, conceding five.
  • PSG haven't lost in Parc des Princes in 39 matches since a 2-0 Monaco win in March 2016.
  • They haven't conceded in the Champions League since Sergi Roberto scored Barcelona's sixth and stunningly decisive goal in last season's last-16 second leg in the Camp Nou.
  • PSG haven't lost a home Champions League group stage match since a defeat by CSKA Moscow in December 2004.
  • They have made their best start to a domestic league season since 1985/86.
Paris St-Germain coach Unai Emery
Unai Emery's PSG have scored 17 goals and conceded none in four Champions League group matches

Throw in the fact that Uruguayan striker Cavani has shrugged off an apparent attempted internal coup by record signing Neymar to score 20 goals for club and country this season, which follows the 39 he plundered last season, and you can understand why some Celtic supporters will travel to the French capital with trepidation.

Al-Khelaifi has been criticised for his overpowering spending by many, including the people in charge of Spain's lofty La Liga.

The Qatari businessman puts the accusations down to jealousy, insisting he is attempting to "nourish a dream".

The European dream for Celtic is modest by comparison, but Rodgers will hope his players heeded the early-autumn warning on match-day one as they prepare to enter a winter where they may be about to take a big step forward.

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport