By Richard Parks
Robert Pires has claimed in the Sun that Celtic are one of the best teams left in the Europa League and hailed their Parkhead cauldron as a key factor in their capacity to win the competition.
Arsenal and France legend Pires insisted that Celtic are one of the three favourites to win the tournament along with with the Gunners and Atletico Madrid.
The Bhoys are set to play Zenit St Petersburg in the second leg of their Europa League tie on Thursday, and go into the game with a 1-0 advantage from last week’s first leg, courtesy of a superbly taken Callum McGregor goal.
Pires, who did play at Celtic Park in Stan Petrov’s charity mach in 2013, said to the Sun that Celtic’s fans make them a force to be reckoned with and put them on a par with Liverpool’s supporters in terms of generating a hostile atmosphere.
“Atletico and Arsenal are the favourites, for me this is the final in Lyon.
“They both have a lot of experience, especially in the Champions League. They just need to avoid each other and Celtic if they want to face each other in the final.
“I love Celtic. It is not easy for any team, especially in Celtic Park. The atmosphere is amazing.
“When you are a player, inside, playing against Celtic, it is a great atmosphere. It is still very close to the pitch, maybe only Liverpool has a similar atmosphere.
“That’s why it is very difficult to win in Celtic Park.”
Football Insider verdict:
Brendan Rodgers deliberately played down Celtic’s Europa League chances last week, but don’t be fooled. The Hoops are genuinely in with a shout of winning the competition if they can overcome Zenit tomorrow and get some momentum. A clear injury list would certainly help, but Celtic will benefit even further in the later rounds from the intoxicating atmosphere generated in home legs by their unique supporters. As Pires points out, it gives them a huge advantage over many adversaries.
In other Celtic transfer news, the plug has been pulled at the last minute on the Hoops loaning a left-sided player.