Scottish champions Celtic have been drawn against German giants Bayern Munich, French outfit Paris Saint-Germain and Belgian side Anderlecht in the Group B of the Champions League.
After defeating Astana 8-4 on aggregate in the play-offs Celtic were looking to avoid their regular group stage partners, Barcelona, and fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when the draw was announced and Celtic were faced with the glitz and glamour of Bayern Munich and PSG for a change.
Celtic have a great chance to battle it out for third spot in the group against Anderlecht, with Bayern and PSG favourites for the top two spots.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has already admitted that he is looking to better last season’s campaign when Celtic finished bottom of a group containing Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach – and there is a real chance of securing European football after Christmas with an automatic Europa League place if they finish third in the group.
Top seeds Bayern Munich, managed by Carlo Ancelotti, were crowned Bundesliga champions for the fifth season in a row and are favourites to take top spot in the group. Featuring a host of German internationals, including Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boeteng and Thomas Mueller, as well Polish striker Robert Lewandowksi, Frenchman Franck Ribery and Dutch winger Arjen Robben – the German outfit will be a tough outfit to face both home and away for Rodgers’ side.
As soon as Celtic were paired with PSG, thoughts turned to former Barca man Neymar who signed for the French capital side for a cool £200 million this summer. The Brazilian helped to demolish Celtic 7-0 in last season’s competition in the Nou Camp and then 2-0 at Celtic Park.
While all eyes will be on Neymar, PSG have threats all over the park including the likes of Edinson Cavani and another former Barca man Dani Alves.
Anderlecht, who were in Pot 3, are managed by Rene Weiler and include the likes of former Watford midfielder Sven Kums and on loan forward Henry Onyekuru from Everton in their ranks.
Celtic summer signing Olivier Ntcham, a self-confessed PSG fan, admitted he was ‘very happy’ with the draw.
“I’m a supporter of Paris Saint-Germain,” he said. “I am very excited. I said to my friend beforehand that I hoped we would play PSG. It is always good to play against a big player like Neymar.”
“For the fans of Paris, they are going to think it is an easy game for them, but in the Champions League we don’t have easy games.”
Celtic were in the same Champions League group as Bayern Munich and Anderlecht in 2003-04 when Martin O’Neill was the manager.
Celtic drew 0-0 with Bayern in Glasgow, before the Germans won 2-1 in Munich, while they beat Anderlecht 3-1 at Celtic but lost 1-0 in Belgium. O’Neill’s side finished third that season and went on to reach the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup where they were knocked out by Villarreal 3-1 on aggregate – just a year after Celtic had lost to Porto in the final in Seville.
The last time Celtic faced PSG in European competition was in the 1995-96 Cup-Winners Cup, with the French side winning 3-0 in Glasgow and 1-0 in Paris.
Speaking after the draw was announced, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, said: “It could have been a little bit easier, but it is obviously Box Office. It is fantastic to have these clubs coming to our place, three outstanding clubs.
“Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain are top, top European clubs in everything that they do. For them to be coming to Celtic Park will be a privilege and they will be brilliant nights.
“The same goes for Anderlecht because we have a great history with them. So, as I said, although the draw could have been easier, it is Box Office and we will welcome these clubs to Glasgow and give them the Celtic experience.”