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You'll be backing me in the morning because my team's fearless SAYS BRENDAN RODGERS; CELTIC V PSG.

Byline: Scott McDermott

Without fear it's a motto so fundamental to Brendan Rodgers' football beliefs that he signs off his Parkhead programme notes with it every other week.

It's absolutely central to his managerial ethos.

And on Tuesday, against PSG at Celtic Park in the Champions League, it will never be more pertinent.

Because if Rodgers' players are spooked by the French club's bigname superstars, they will have no chance of upsetting Neymar & Co.

The Hoops gaffer admits that in the Nou Camp a year ago, his men showed Barcelona far too much respect as they suffered a 7-0 rout - their heaviest-ever European defeat.

But Celtic are now a different animal. And Rodgers is convinced that, despite PSG's quality, Celtic won't be afraid to showcase their own.

He believes they're ready to produce another performance like the one against Manchester City in Glasgow, where they went for the throat of Pep Guardiola's side - and were unlucky only to get a 3-3 draw.

That was a thrilling Champions League night at Parkhead - and Tuesday has the potential to produce something similar.

It's the only way Rodgers is prepared to set out his team.

That was a decision he made in October, 2009, after a game against QPR while Reading boss.

Having ditched those principles, his team were unrecognisable and lost 4-1. He was sacked two months later.

That's why Rodgers will savour the PSG clash. And why his team on Tuesday night will have his stamp all over it.

He said: "In the Barcelona game a year ago, I felt we were a wee bit intimidated. We gave them too much respect.

"But now that we've had a year together, we play without fear wherever we go.

Our performances showed that for the remainder of the Champions League. "Our identity is important. Of course, you have to respect your opponent and the qualities they have.

"But I've always been about playing without fear - and making sure our rivals know they're in a game.

and PSG will do when the whistle goes. I always want us to really test the opponent. See how they feel under pressure.

"When you're breathing right up against them, if you can touch them, you're pressing them.

"If they get out of that press, that's OK. They've earned their PS600,000 a week. And they'll do it a few times. But we keep going back.

"It doesn't guarantee you a result but it gives you a chance.

"I've always played that way. My teams have always taken the initiative, even as far back as Watford.

"My teams have always had the feeling that they wouldn't wait, go after the game and impose ourselves.

"It wasn't the case at Reading because I wasn't there long enough before I got the sack.

"I know the game when I didn't do it. It was away at Loftus Road and we were losing.

"The home fans were singing: 'You're getting sacked in the morning'. Then the Reading fans joined in.

"I was watching my team and it wasn't a representation of me. It was 4-4-2, it was stiff and static. And it was my fault.

"With experience now, I know clearly that if you're going to go down as a manager - and you normally do at some point - at least go down with your own vision.

"On Tuesday night, our players are top of the bill, it's a showcase game. And we will represent the club in a positive way. It's going to be a big ask, of course, but we have to show that we're ready to compete and make it difficult for PSG."

Competing is one thing. Stopping PS400 million worth of talent - just in PSG's front three - is another matter altogether.

Edinson Cavani and new kid on the block Kylian Mbappe would cause Celtic enough problems. But Brazilian ace Neymar will be the French side's focal point.

And Rodgers knew all about his quality long before he was a worldwide star. He said: "When I was at Chelsea we were aware of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho together.

"Neymar has everything. He's like a motorbike, he's so fast and balanced - left foot, right foot. He commits people. The best players go at people, they don't pass all the time.

"I actually love his hunger. He gets himself into bother at times but he had to do it at Barcelona.

"He's a worker and is hungry. He's come out of the shadows a bit and obviously felt like he wanted to be the main man at PSG.

"He's a massive talent, I'm a big admirer of him.

"Unfortunately, with PSG, it's not about just having to stop one player. Sometimes you get that, where you try to put a cage around them on the pitch and block them in.

"When you play against a Gareth Bale or Eden Hazard for instance, if you let them into their running they hurt you. So you try to find ways to block them.

"It will be difficult to stop them but it's a great challenge for us. They're a team full of world-class players with great experience.

a "And they're in the Champions League looking to win it. That's why the investment is there.

"The challenge for us is to get a result and it should be an amazing night."

Certainly, if Celtic can replicate their display against City they'll give themselves a chance against PSG.

Rodgers doesn't get to utilise Celtic's counter-attacking qualities often in the Scottish Premiership.

But he's hoping that 12 months of honing it at Lennoxtown will come to fruition on Tuesday night.

He said: "These matches bring out a different part of our game.

"Domestically, we dominate, we counter-press, get the ball and create lots of chances.

"But at this level, you don't get as many chances. The Champions League gives us an opportunity to counter-attack.

"We don't have it all our own way. There's a bit of pain for the supporters and the players because we're so used to dominating. But that's the level.

"It's hard to do it for 90 minutes but in the City game there was pressure and aggression on the ball. We set traps and triggers to press them. And working together for a year has allowed us to get better at it."

I've always been about playing without fear, making our rivals know they are in a game and PSG will do when the whistle goes

CAPTION(S):

RIGHT ROYALS LESSON Rodgers suffered hard knocks at Reading (above left) before move to Watford (above)

SELF BELIEF Rodgers developed his 'no fear' ethos at Swansea (above left) and Liverpool (above)

LEADING FROM FRONT Rodgers wants Celtic to be true to his vision
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 10, 2017
Words:1119
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