Brendan Rodgers: Celtic can shake big spenders

Boss Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic are better placed this season to make progress in Europe despite their daunting Champions League group.

Rodgers is preparing for the visit tonight of free-spending all-star French side PSG in their Group B opener where he will have Leigh Griffiths back after a calf injury but will still be without fellow striker Moussa Dembele as he works his way back from a hamstring complaint.

“Getting ready for our first game 12 months ago, I didn’t believe we were at the level we are at now,” said Rodgers. “Attitude is everything. If you stand off top class players they will show you why they are top class.

“I am also looking forward to seeing us play on the counter attack as well because this is a level where you have to stay calm. A positive start is what we want.”

Rodgers acknowledges PSG are a formidable outfit.

Last season, Rodgers’ first in charge at Parkhead, Celtic finished bottom of their Champions League section which included Barcelona, Manchester City, and Borussia Monchengladbach with three draws.

This season the Scottish champions have German giants Bayern Munich and Belgian champions Anderlecht also in their group but PSG are the side most of Europe is talking about.

The French club were bolstered in the summer with the signings of Brazilian superstar Neymar, who cost almost €220m from Barcelona, and 18-year-old French sensation Kylian Mbappe who joined on a season-long loan from Monaco, with an option to make the deal permanent for €182m.

Along with Uruguay international Edinson Cavani, who signed from Napoli in 2013 for a fee reported as £55m, PSG bring with them the most expensive front line ever assembled.

“It should be a great spectacle,” said the Irishman “We worked very hard last year in the league and went through a tough qualification phase and this is the competition that we wanted to be in.

“In these types of games attitude is everything.

“They are put together to win this competition. There is no question about that, with the quality they have and what they have been building over the last few years and over the summer, bringing in Neymar and Mbappe, who is an amazing young striker. So their focus is clearly on winning it.”

Rodgers revealed his delight after skipper Scott Brown and Jozo Simunovic signed new deals with Celtic on the eve of tonight’s Champions League clash with Paris St Germain.

The Parkhead club confirmed that 32-year-old Scotland captain Brown, who joined the Scottish champions in 2007, has penned a two-year contract which takes him until at least 2019.

Defender Simunovic, 23, who arrived in Glasgow from Dinamo Zagreb in 2015, has penned a new four-year deal until at least the summer of 2021.

However, he confirmed the boost the Hoops squad will get from two players happy to extend their time at Celtic.

“I am delighted for both,” he said. “Scott has been a great captain here over many years and in the period I have been here, he has consistently played at a very high level.

“We were talking towards the end of last season and it was a case of just getting the Champions League qualification out of the way and hoping to get something agreed.

“So I am absolutely delighted because he is a very important figure for us on and off the field and I have been delighted at his performance level and how tactically he has been playing the game.

“Jozo is a young player that, there was a focus on his injury past, but this is a great arena for him to play and once he is fit and trains and plays consistently he is an outstanding talent.”

“It is an exciting period and we have one or two others that we will look at to try to ensure the squad remains as stable as possible whilst looking to progress at the same time.”

History books

* The teams first met in the 2002/03 second group stage, United winning the first game in Switzerland 3-1 with Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring twice. Ole Gunnar Solskjær got United’s clinching third goal after Christian Giménez had given Basel a first-minute lead.

* Giménez was also on target in Manchester on March 12, 2003, his 14th-minute strike helping Basel to a 1-1 draw with Gary Neville claiming United’s equaliser.

* Basel earned another crucial point at Old Trafford in the 2011/12 group stage. Two goals from Danny Welbeck (16, 17) put United in charge only for Fabian Frei (58) and an Alexander Frei double (61, 76 pen) to leave Basel on the verge of a famous win; however Ashley Young salvaged a draw for United in the 90th minute.

* There would be no escape for United in Switzerland on matchday six though. Needing a point to clinch second place in the section, United fell behind to Marco Streller’s ninth-minute opener and their fate was effectively sealed when Alexander Frei made it 2-0 with six minutes to go, despite Phil Jones pulling one back in the 89th minute. The result left Basel second in Group C and United third.


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