Bayern Munich star Thiago believes Celtic are on the same level as a top English team as the sides prepare for a Champions League showdown.
Bayern welcomed back returning manager Jupp Heynckes for an incredible fourth spell in charge last week. His first game on Saturday saw Bayern romp to a 5-0 win against an admittedly awful Freiburg side as they moved to within two points of the top of the Bundesliga.
Despite the eventual scoreline, Celtic could take real encouragement from the amount of chances Freiburg created and the Bayern defence looked fragile.
Goals from Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman, Thiago, Joshua Kimmich and, of course, Robert Lewandowski meant the outcome was never in doubt.
But Spain star Thiago insists he carries the utmost respect for Celtic and their manager Brendan Rodgers.
He said: “I expect a tough game against Celtic. They are a good team and it will be like a game against an English team. For me, playing Celtic is like playing against the teams from the Premier League. They are always great games and Celtic will be difficult opponents.
“Of course, I know all about Brendan Rodgers. He did a great job at Liverpool. We have to win three points against Celtic to get as far away from third place as possible. At the same time, we have to hope that PSG lose to Anderlecht.”
Heynckes received a rapturous reception from the 75,000 Bayern fans inside the Allianz Arena and his return got Bayern back to something approaching their best, after the ill-fated Carlo Ancelotti era. He reverted his team to a 4-2-3-1 formation and they completely dominated.
However, Freiburg blew three great first-half chances and it would be hard to imagine Leigh Griffiths doing the same. Captain Muller stated after the game it was as close to perfection as you can get in football and, while that was stretching it to the extremes, 26-year-old Thiago – who joined Bayern four years ago – believes the whole club has been lifted by the return of 72-year-old Heynckes.
He said: “We felt really good on Saturday. As a team it has been a long time since we have played like that. It’s about the mentality and we were motivated. If we show the same mentality we did against Freiburg we can beat anybody. I was happy to get the goal. It felt awesome.
“But what felt even better was being able to help the team get the three points. What happened before wasn’t the manager’s fault – it was our fault. We were criticised after losing in Paris but that is football. We have to work to get better and that is what we have done. The performance was as good as we have played in a long time.
“We have to learn lessons from the defeat to PSG and use that in the next European game against Celtic.
“The new manager is a great coach. He has shown his ways and what he wants you to do. You can see he knows so much about the game.”
And Thiago hinted Heynckes’ personal touch has helped the Bavarian giants. He said: “Whether he has had a talk to me individually or not is a personal matter. That will remain within the team.
“What does he expect from me? It’s about the team. It’s not about me, Robert Lewandowski or Thomas Muller, or anyone.
“It’s about the team – not players. We win as a team and lose as a team and that’s what he wants.
“I don’t want to talk about the difference between him and Carlo.
“There are good things and bad things about every player and person.”