Is there anyway we can just not show up and take the 3-0 loss?
Of course there isn’t. As much as I’d really like to not see Celtic get humped again, and as much as it would be nice to have the week off in preparation for the League Cup final as our opponents there have, somehow staying in the house too scared to play PSG would actually be far worse.
Let’s not pretend this game isn’t scary though. Last time out, PSG equalled Hearts 122 years old record by beating Celtic 5-0 at Celtic Park. Those two results are our biggest home defeats ever, and there’s no getting away from the fact that it was a horrible night for us. One that came so soon after our record European defeat away to Barcelona last season. You have to wonder if that 7-0 might be a target for PSG tonight.
However, the 5-0 defeat at home was not without reason. For all Edinson Cavani, Neymar Jnr and Kylian Mbappe combined on the scoresheet along with an unfortunate own goal by Mikael Lustig, and for all Adrien Rabiot was arguably the man who shone brightest of all that night, we did ourselves no favours either.
For most of the first half, we looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. By the time we were 3-0 down at half time and we actually started to play better in the second half, the game was already gone and we had little to play for but some pride. Only to then tire and concede a further two goals.
The game away to Bayern Munich had something of a similar pattern to it, where we were lucky not to be 2-0 down and reduced to ten men in the opening few minutes of the game, and only really started to play in an attacking sense when we were already 3-0 down.
But perhaps, oddly, that’s the hope that we for this game. If the first Bayern game was hugely disappointing, the second Bayern game was where we showed that we can actually live with the big boys of Europe. Yes, we made the odd mistake and that cost us any kind of good result in the end, but the mistakes were far fewer in that game. We created chances, scored a wonderful goal, and finished the game with far more pride than we started.
I’ll tell you right now, if we somehow come away from Paris with a narrow 2-1 defeat I’ll be so delighted I might not sleep for days!
That might sound defeatist, and certainly isn’t a position I’m happy to see Celtic in, but that’s where we are right now in European football.
For one thing, if we come away with a 2-1 defeat, it means we’ve done something that hasn’t been done in the previous four Champions League match days. It means we’ve scored against PSG. Their record currently reads played four, won four, scored seventeen, conceded none. They took nine off Anderlecht over two games, five off us in the first game, and three off Bayern as well.
So they’ve scored at least three in every game so far as well. Again, if we come away with a 2-1 defeat, we’ve done exceptionally well to keep the score down.
Paris Saint-Germain aren’t unstoppable either. They might be unbeaten in the French league, but they’ve dropped points twice. Away to Montpellier in September they drew 0-0, while last month they had a 2-2 draw in Marseille. Unfortunately, they’ve won all their home games, though Nantes at least scored at the weekend even though they lost 4-1.
It’s not just in Europe that PSG score a lot of goals then. In their last three league games they’ve scored three, five and four goals. That 0-0 draw at Montpellier is the only time they’ve failed to score, and they’ve scored at least twice in all the other league games.
We can dream all we want though, the simple fact is we’re playing the Champions League favourites away from home. Everything suggests we should lose this game and lose it heavily. If we get this game wrong, that 7-0 record from last season could be in danger, and that means our record defeat of 8-0 to Motherwell in 1937 could be too.
So do we go out there and try to keep the score down? Not a chance, that’s not the Celtic way and it’s not the way Brendan Rodgers wants us to play. No, we go out there and we try to play our game to the best of our ability as we always do. Give it our all, try to keep the mistakes to a minimum, and we see what happens.
This is football after all. Surprises happen from time to time. They won’t happen if we just go out there and try not to get humped. If nothing else, we don’t know how to play that way and it’s hardly our strength anyway!
Besides, we’ve literally nothing to lose at this point. We’re six points behind Bayern and they have the better head to head. We can’t make the last sixteen of the Champions League, we’re already heading out of the competition. But conversely the absolute worst that can happen tonight is that PSG beat us and Anderlecht defy the odds to beat Bayern Munich and draw level on points with us.
With the game against them at Celtic Park still to come of course.
Thanks to our 3-0 win over in Belgium, even in that scenario a draw would be enough to see us finish third ahead of them on the head to head. If, as expected, Bayern beat an Anderlecht side that have yet to even score a goal in the group stages, then we’ll head into that final game knowing that only a heavy home defeat to that same Anderlecht team would stop us dropping into the Europa League after Christmas.
As much as that other game is arguably more important to us, it really is all in our hands regardless of what happens. So again, why not have a go in Paris? Best case scenario, Anderlecht lose and we come away from France with even a single point and third place is secure regardless of what happens in the final game. How sweet would that be?
My heart will no doubt be dreaming of another magical night for Celtic tonight. It always does. But my head will probably ensure that I’m watching this particular game from behind the couch.
But I’ll still be watching anyway, my heart wouldn’t allow anything else.
Kryst (Twitter @krys1888)