'˜Whole world expects Celtic to lose' says Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes his players are ready to confound 'worldwide' expectations of their defeat against Paris Saint-Germain when they begin their Champions League group stage campaign tonight.

Tom Rogic, left, Scott Sinclair, centre, and Mikael Lustig take part in training at Lennoxtown yesterday as Celtic prepared to face Paris Saint Germain. Picture Mark Runnacles/Getty

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The Scottish champions are priced at up to 12-1 by the bookmakers – one of the longest odds ever for a home win at Celtic Park – as they prepare to confront big spending PSG’s formidable £420 million forward line of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

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Celtic must improve a recent home record in Europe’s elite club competition which has seen them win just one of their last seven games in the group stage, a 2-1 success over Ajax back in 2013.

Rodgers, while recognising the severity of the challenge his team face against a PSG squad which has been so expensively assembled with the express ambition of winning the Champions League, insists they are capable of achieving a result which will reverberate far beyond the east end of Glasgow.

“These are the games where you get the chance to write your story that can be heard worldwide,” said Rodgers.

“We are clear that the world will look at the game and everyone will expect us to lose. But for our players, our own cause is different.

“We fought so hard to get into the competition, so we can go on and make progress. Home games can be very important for us. We are facing a huge opponent but we are excited by it. We won’t be overawed by it.

“It’s brilliant, it will be a really exciting night. With the level of player PSG have, it leaves a big focus on some of their outstanding individuals. It’s great to be involved in it.

“You respect the level PSG are at. But the difference in our team now is the attitude. That’s key. It’s everything in these games – whether you stand off and watch or go in and press. If you stand off top players, they will play around you, through you and over you.

“They have to feel that pressure, they have to feel the crowd. If you look at the Manchester City game here last season [when Celtic drew 3-3] as a reference, there was similar expectation about it beforehand. So you hope you can go and impose your game. It’s going to be a great test for us.

“Make no bones about it, this is a superior team to us. That’s the reality of it with the quality of the players and where they’re at. They have to feel us breathing very close to them. That’s how we play domestically and it’s how we play in other games in this competition.

“You can’t do it for 90 minutes so you have to dip in and out of the pressure. But it’s our job to progress with real aggression.”

While Rodgers is bullish about Celtic’s prospects of achieving a high profile one-off victory, he has no illusions about his club’s overall status in European football. The Northern Irishman cannot envisage any circumstances in the future which would give the 1967 European champions the chance to once again pose a serious challenge for club football’s greatest prize.

“I very much doubt it,” said Rodgers. “I’m optimistic, but it’s always with reality. The game has moved on so much now. You compare budgets and it’s very difficult now.

“The potential here is huge. But it’s about steps. Listen, there is a star outside the ground because we have won it, but finances now in football dictate whether the trophy is in Paris or in China or the Premier League. It’s just astronomical now and unfortunately for us here in Scotland now that’s just not the case. Money does dictate things, that’s the simplicity of it.

“That’s why they have changed the Champions League from next season. We now have to go through an extra qualification phase next year and that’s for one reason – to give the other leagues with more financial clout an extra place in the group stage.

“The countries with the teams with the most money are getting extra places. The nations that don’t quite have that financial clout have to go through a harder pathway.

“That’s a frustration because a club like this with the history and tradition it has – this is a huge club. But until it changes and we get ten billionaires coming to Scotland, it’s what we have to do.”