For Brendan Rodgers, principles come with a cost which he remains happy to pay as Celtic manager.
The debate over whether he should adopt a less expansive approach when his team mix with Europe’s super powers has become futile. He has made it abundantly clear he won’t, regardless of how many crushing defeats the Scottish champions suffer while trying to impose their style of play against the continental elite.
Celtic have now conceded 33 goals in the 11 Champions League group stage fixtures they have played under Rodgers, a sequence now bookended by the 7-0 loss in Barcelona at the start of last season and Wednesday night’s 7-1 pasting at the hands of a rampant Paris Saint-Germain.
Results which would once have caused outrage and fury among supporters are now largely greeted with a collective shrug of the shoulders. There is a general acceptance of their place in the grander scheme of things when they step outside of the domestic environment they are dominating as never before.
While Dorus de Vries experienced the pain of retrieving the ball from his net seven times at the Nou Camp last year, it was Craig Gordon who bore the brunt of PSG’s attacking brilliance this time around.
The 34-year-old Scotland goalkeeper is never found wanting when it comes to making a defence of his own abilities and he firmly rejects any notion of culpability for the goals which flew past him in the Parc des Princes.
Gordon is equally dismissive of suggestions there are times, like Wednesday night, when Rodgers and Celtic would be better served by performing in a more pragmatic fashion.
“We could just kick it long to them and the ball would still come back at us,” said Gordon. “That’s the debate, yes, should we still play it out from the back against these teams. But you don’t have any of the ball if you do just kick it long, you just try to limit the damage from the start. So you can sit there and just wait to get beat, or you can try to make a game of it.
“That’s always our way, we want to try to play. We gave away a few goals we weren’t happy with but some of them were just ridiculous quality from PSG. There were a few when we gave the ball away and players of that quality will hurt you.
“They had an incredible night. Everything they seemed to hit was going in off the post. The finishing was just brilliant. It’s hard to take at times. Every good chance they make, they are clinical. They made us pay and that shows the quality they have.
“We had a couple of chances ourselves – we took one but we weren’t as clinical in that final third as them.
“I don’t think there was much I could do about any of the goals. I was up against tremendous quality. They are an expensive front three – Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe – and when they get chances, they take them more often than not.
“I could go through all of the goals. But I could walk out of the stadium with my head held high. I had a few decent saves in the game. I’d like to have had more but the quality of the finishing was so good that I wasn’t able to do that.”
Celtic can certainly consider they found themselves in the toughest possible Champions League group this season. Both themselves and Anderlecht have conceded 17 goals so far as PSG and Bayern Munich have cruised into the last 16.
No teams in any of the other seven groups have conceded as many.
“That’s the quality PSG possess,” added Gordon. “They hardly missed the target all night. You have to hope they have an off night and don’t perform like that. When they do, they are capable of doing that in the rest of this competition to a few more teams.”
It was Gordon’s heaviest beating since he was also on the receiving end of a 7-1 defeat while playing for Sunderland against Everton back in 2008, a result which saw him dropped by then manager Roy Keane.
“It’s not enjoyable,” he admitted. “But you have to accept PSG are probably the best team in Europe at this time. We want to challenge ourselves against these teams and, on any given night, we can. Wednesday wasn’t that night. They were just too good.
“There were parts of the game when we actually did quite well, we made some good moves and passed the ball well. We made a few mistakes but we kept trying to play, so the manager will definitely find some positives from that. We just came up against a team who finished their chances so well.
“I will watch it back, like I do every game. There are always things you can improve on. I’ll look at it with my goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods but I don’t think we’ll have too many talking points, to be honest.
“That sometimes happens to a goalkeeper. You can go through a game not making many saves and losing a few goals if the finishing is of that standard. That’s the life of a goalkeeper. You have to accept it and move on to the next game.
“I’ve lost seven before in my career, so it’s not the first time. I certainly didn’t want it to be any more than that and I probably had my best save of the night at 7-1, down to my left hand side. It stopped it getting to eight, which would have been even worse.”
Compensation for Celtic came in the shape of Anderlecht losing 2-1 to Bayern Munich, a result which leaves Rodgers’ side three points ahead of the Belgian champions in pursuit of third place in the group and qualification for the last 32 of the Europa League. The teams meet in Glasgow on 5 December when a draw, or even a defeat of less than 3-0, will suffice for Celtic.
“We will try and win the game,” said Gordon. “It’s at home and we know what we have to do. We want to win the game in its own right and put in a performance, like we did in the last home game against Bayern. If we can do that, we can give ourselves every opportunity to win the game.
“There are still going to be some excellent teams in the Europa League. But if we can put ourselves in the position to still be in Europe next year, then it’s probably a job well done coming out of this Champions League group.”
Before then, Celtic will hope to have the first piece of domestic silverware of the season wrapped up in green and white ribbons when they face Motherwell in the Betfred Cup Final at Hampden on Sunday. Gordon is confident the PSG mauling will have no detrimental effect on their preparations or mindset.
“No, not at all,” he said. “If anything, that will be a positive – going into a cup final. There is no point in going over the PSG game too much. We will have a few days recovery, get back into training and organise ourselves. We will be ready for Sunday. I don’t think it will have a bearing either way. It’s a different game, it’s a cup final and one we want to win. I don’t think anyone will be thinking of what happened in Paris when we walk out at Hampden.”