Star-studded PSG seek to banish Barca demons against Celtic
The Scottish champions welcome the multi-millionaires of the French capital to Parkhead for PSG’s first game in the competition since their remarkable last-16 disaster at the Nou Camp last season.
Italian international Veratti was part of the side who took what should have been an insurmountable 4-0 first-leg lead to Catalonia, only to concede three goals in the last two minutes of the match, including two in injury time, to lose 6-1 and go out on aggregate.
That calamity directly led to PSG splashing out astronomical transfer fees in the last window, including a world record £198 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona and a loan deal for Kylian Mbappe which will see them pay Monaco £162m for the teenager next summer.
Both players netted in the 5-1 win at Metz on Friday night but the focus will now switch to Europe.
For Verratti, only a first ever triumph in the Champions League will erase last season’s memories and they aim to start their route to glory with a decisive win tomorrow.
“The days following the Barcelona match were almost a nightmare,” Verratti said. “I was struggling to understand what had happened to me. But from that day on I became more determined to win.
“Football, like life, is made of ups and downs. And sometimes it takes some disappointments to make you understand and learn.
“Now we have so many good players, but to get to the final of all the competition we will need everyone.
“Neymar is a big hit. I did not think he would come to be honest. At first I was sceptical, but Dani Alves talked to me about this possibility. It was not easy to leave Barca and people like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. And yet Neymar has done it. He is a phenomenon who is capable of taking Paris to the top of European football.
“Mbappe is also here and you have a guy like Julien Draxler who is one of the best I’ve ever played, and he sometimes might be on the bench.
“There are so many options in attack with players like him.”
When the Qatari royal family took over PSG in summer 2011, via Qatar Sports Investments, their mission was to win the Champions League within five years. It hasn’t happened. Coach Unai Emery survived last season’s collapse against Barca and losing the French league title to Monaco.
The recruitment of Neymar and Mbappe to add to a squad that already includes Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta and Dani Alves suggests similar failures during this campaign will not be tolerated. Celtic beware.