THE task awaiting Celtic at Parkhead in their opening Champions League group game against Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow night is a daunting, some would say nigh on impossible, one. They must overcome opponents who broke – or rather obliterated – the world transfer record in the summer when they paid Barcelona an obscene £198 million for Neymar.

Brendan Rodgers’ side must get the better of opponents who will, despite the anticipated absences of Angel di Maria and Thiago Silva due to injury, still be able to field Dani Alves in defence, Javier Pastore in midfield, Julian Draxler out wide and Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe up front. No pressure then.

But Celtic have defied seemingly insurmountable odds before and there was a time not so very long ago when they would go into a meeting with any club in Europe, no matter how expensively assembled, regardless of how renowned a name, at home with complete confidence.

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The likes of AC Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester United and Porto, among others, all rocked up in the East End of Glasgow expecting to coast to straightforward victories only to have their hopes spectacularly scuppered.

Stephen McManus, the former Celtic centre-half who is now on the coaching staff at Motherwell after retiring from playing last month, was involved in a fair few of those epic evenings. Most memorably, he scored in a glorious 2-1 win over defending champions Milan – Dida, Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Ambrosini, Rino Gattuso, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi et al – on a raucous night at Parkhead back in 2007.

McManus believes Brendan Rodgers’ team is back operating at the same rarefied level as they were when Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon were in charge, and can surprise a few doubters in their opening Group B game against a team installed by many bookmakers as joint second favourites to win the tournament.

However, McManus hopes his old club can pull off a triumph and give the Scottish game another lift after the unexpected resurgence of the national team in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

“Anything is possible,” McManus said as he looked ahead to the visit of the French champions. “Of course, Celtic have a difficult task but they are in [the group stage], they have done the country proud. It is difficult for Scottish clubs. Look at Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Rangers all going out in the early rounds. I think we need to do all we can as a nation to give our clubs the best possible chance to be successful in Europe.

“But Celtic have been terrific and are flying the flag. It gives every club benefits – they get money from it. It is just great to have Celtic back on the map for everybody, for supporters, for the media. There is a real buzz around these games. The Celtic players will be going into every single Champions League game believing they can win, at home especially.”

McManus added: “Under Brendan, they are back to where they were when Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon were in charge. They have started where they left off last season. Motherwell played against Celtic in Ronny Deila’s last game when they received the league trophy at the end of the 2015/16 season. We weren’t really on it that day and Celtic were in party mode and played well. But I always felt with that side that you could get at them if you were on your game.

“But Brendan has come in and turned things around. We met them in the Betfred Cup last season and we played really well but could not get anywhere near them. They have got pace, quality, enthusiasm, tactical awareness from the manager. In the game here at Fir Park against them last season we were on top [Motherwell led 2-0 and 3-2] and looking good. Brendan, John Kennedy and Chris Davies, the three of them, changed things. They ended up coming back and winning 4-3. They are a very, very strong side and there is no reason for them to fear anybody in the Champions League.”

The celebrated win over Carlo Ancelotti’s star-studded side 10 years ago next month went a long way towards atoning for the painful defeat which Strachan’s team had suffered in the last 16 the previous season.

McManus and his team-mates were only beaten 1-0 on aggregate after Kaka scored in the third minute of extra-time in the second leg at the San Siro.

Asked what it had felt like to run such redoubtable adversaries so close in what had been Celtic’s first foray into the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier club competition, the former Scotland defender replied: “At the time, you were definitely scratching your head a wee bit.

“To say that you have shared a pitch with them was great. But you competed with them. Gordon was always stressing that, no matter what happened, make sure you compete.

“To take that Milan team to extra-time was no mean feat. They went on to win that year [beating Liverpool in the final]. They had top, top players. I don’t think people gave us credit.”