“WITHOUT fear” is the sort of punchy soundbite which Brendan Rodgers loves and has used regularly to motivate his players since being appointed Celtic manager last summer as well as sign off his programme notes with on match days.

On few occasions, though, will the message be quite so appropriate as when his side take on Paris Saint-Germain in their opening Champions League group game this evening.

Aside from the two meetings with Barcelona – who fielded Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez – at the same stage of the same competition last season Saint-Germain are the most formidable opponents his charges have faced.

It is little wonder that many fancy Unai Emery’s team to triumph in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time this season given some of the individuals they now have at their disposal.

Their front line, after a summer of unprecedented spending, comprises Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Elsewhere in the team they can call on Dani Alves, Julian Draxler, Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva.

There will be plenty for the Celtic players, the defenders especially, to be afraid about when the familiar strains of Zadoc the Priest blare out across the public address system shortly be-fore kick-off tonight.

Rodgers believes Saint-Germain deserve to be considered among the favourites for the Champions League given how significantly they have strengthened during the close season.

However, he believes his team have learned from their involvement at this level last season, when they drew with Borussia Moenchengladbach away and Manchester City both home and away, and is confident they will not be overawed or overrun by their visitors.

“When you are writing a cheque for that amount of money on Neymar (£198 million), then backing it up with Mbappe (£165 million), you are making a serious statement that you want to win this competition,” he said. “They have some incredible players and they are up there now in terms of how much they can pay them.

“But it doesn’t faze us. In the team meeting we were all in a good place and we learned lessons from the opening game against Barcelona last season. After that took them on and performed very, very well. This year there is a different mentality. We go into the game with a real attitude to give everything, be physical, be aggressive and show our quality.

“You respect the level PSG are at. But the difference in our team now is the attitude. That’s key. It’s everything in these games. If you stand off top players, they will play around you, through you and over you.

“We have a courage to play and a courage physically to press and work. I always say, if you stand off top class players they’ll show you why they’re top class. But we can be educated in our pressure. This is a level where you have to stay calm.

“They have to feel that pressure, they have to feel the crowd. If you look at the Manchester City game here last season as a reference, there was similar expectation about it before-hand. So you hope you can go and impose your game. It’s going to be a great test for us.

“It’s brilliant, it will be a really exciting night. With the level of player PSG have, it leaves a big focus on some of their outstanding individuals. It’s great to be involved in it.

“Everyone will expect us to lose. But for our players, our own cause is different. We fought so hard to get into the competition, so we can go on and make progress. Home games can be very important for us. We are facing a huge opponent, but we are excited by it. We won’t be overawed by it.”

Celtic dominate every game they play domestically whether it is home or away. The meeting with Paris Saint-Germain will, however, be completely different. Rodgers feels his team will have to utilise the pace of James Forrest and Scott Sinclair on either wing and seek to score on the counter attack.

“When we prepare domestically, we have a lot of the game and we are working on your counter-pressing, getting the ball back quickly and having it for 70 per cent of the game,” he said. “We find ways of beating teams who are sat a lot deeper. It’s a different strategy at this level.

“You still want to dominate the ball, but it’s also about control of the game which sometimes comes without the ball. I’m looking forward to that element of it because we very rarely get the chance to do that. But at the highest level you have to be confident on the counter-attack.

“It’s a balance. It’s about defending. You have to have resilience, courage, bravery, persistence. All those qualities - and a wee bit of luck along the way. You have to defend for a purpose and that’s to create opportunities and look to take them when they come.”

Rodges only has one specialist centre half, Jozo Simunovic, to choose from tonight. He could go with a three man back line with Mikael Lustig and Kieran Tierney on either side of Simunovic. Alternatively, he could bring in midfielder Nir Bitton or youngster Anthony Ralston.

“I’m pretty clear on how we will line up,” he said. “He (Ralston) could be an option. For any of our young players it’s a great opportunity.”