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With Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, PSG taking aim at Champions League crown

GLASGOW, Scotland — When Paris Saint-Germain take to the Celtic Park pitch to take on Celtic on Tuesday, the French capital outfit will be competing in the Champions League for the first time since their infamous capitulation away at Barcelona last season.

PSG captain Thiago Silva insisted prematch that the haunting Catalonia episode has been forgotten at Parc des Princes and after this summer’s events, that is true to an extent.

The arrivals of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Dani Alves have created a feeling that this campaign, more than any other, Les Parisiens are ready to launch a serious assault on the Champions League title.

Speaking with journalists on the eve of the opening Group B fixture, Silva praised the experience that Neymar and Alves have already brought to Unai Emery’s squad and the quality that the pair, along with Mbappe and fellow summer signing Yuri Berchiche, have added to the squad.

“They will add many positive things,” Silva said. “They have experience because they have already won the Champions League, like Angel [Di Maria] and Thiago [Motta].

“Julian [Draxler] and Kevin [Trapp] have also won major trophies. We want to go as far as possible in the Champions League.

“Our summer transfer window was magnificent. We have bought three good players — Neymar, Kylian and Yuri, while Dani adds a lot of experience. He is very keen to get started in the Champions League together.”

Life with Neymar and Mbappe has started well in Ligue 1. The Brazilian superstar has scored four times and assisted goals from as many appearances, while The Frenchman helped himself to a goal and an assist on his debut in the flattering 5-1 win over Metz last week.

The outrageously gifted pair already showed positive signs at Stade Saint-Symphorien last week and Silva is not surprised, considering what he has seen from both in training.

“They are both great players with high technical ability,” Silva said. “Their speed with and without the ball is almost impossible to stop. Playing with players like them in training makes us better.”

With the likes of Neymar and Mbappe added to a squad that still boasts quality players like Silva, Marco Verratti and Edinson Cavani, it is simply a question of how long they take to jell before they replicate their at times scintillating Ligue 1 football at Europe’s top table.

The early signs are good and both players appear well integrated already. However, it is also true that Metz is not the best reference point as up until Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s second-half red card, Les Grenats looked capable of holding PSG to a draw or nicking a shock win.

Silva believes that both have bedded in well but knows that the squad’s journey with their two new star men will start at Celtic Park on Tuesday.

“When players possess a blend of intelligence and a good personality, it is easy,” the Brazil international said about Neymar and Mbappe’s adaptation to their new teammates. “They have already adapted to Paris and to the club.

“Before coming, I spoke a lot with Neymar. I gave him everything positive and negative. That is normal. He is intelligent. He immediately became part of our tactical setup. He is very smart in adapting.

“The same goes for Kylian and Dani. One has more experience than the other. However, Kylian arrived already in a good state of mind. They will start showing their qualities here.”

Neymar and Mbappe have had their time to warm up together in Metz. Now, with a win needed in Glasgow before Bayern Munich visit Parc des Princes in the second round of fixtures, they really need to combine and show the world exactly why PSG’s Qatari paymasters went all-out to bring both to Paris this summer.

Les Parisiens have made such sweeping changes to their squad in order to move closer to overall glory.

On paper, despite a few positions where there is a questionable level of depth — notably defensive midfield — PSG are stronger than they have ever been in terms of being primed for a shot at the title.

The moment has arrived for Mbappe and particularly Neymar to take centre stage and inspire a convincing opening win to breed confidence ahead of the big challenge that Bayern will pose next.


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