Unai Emery wants PSG to seal top spot in their Champions League group
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has underlined the importance of the Champions League to his team ahead of Wednesday's Group B clash with Celtic.
PSG are already assured of a place in the latter stages of this season's competition but a win over the Scottish side will make it very difficult for Bayern Munich to beat them to top spot in their group. After Celtic, PSG travel to Bayern in their final group game next month.
Speaking at his prematch news conference at Parc des Princes, Emery stressed that keeping hold of first place is absolutely vital.
"For us, the Champions League is very important," he said. "We want to tread a path that gives us the best possibilities. Because of this, we are group leaders. To keep our position, we need to win here. Bayern have improved [since PSG won 3-0 in Paris].
"If we win this, we will not be thinking about anybody else. We need to stay focused on taking all three points and continuing to progress. We want fans to be vibrant towards the team and for the players to give their best on the pitch."
PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is yet to concede a goal in Europe this campaign and is excited to be back in continental action.
"These are always exceptional games to play in," Areola said. "Not everybody gets to play in Europe. I had the opportunity to play Europa League football with Villarreal. The Champions League is a cut above that.
"To be in good form right now immediately gives us a confidence boost. We are trying to give the maximum each time. No goals conceded in the group stage? This would be unique but our priority is to finish in top spot. If we can do that without conceding, then that would be a bonus. Our main objective is to win the group."
Neymar was a talking point in the French media after last Saturday's 4-1 home win over Nantes after going out with American rapper Tyga -- one of PSG's guests for the clash -- despite a poor performance on the pitch.
Emery, though, insisted that he is not worried about the forward's actions off the pitch.
"Neymar is a player who is responsible for his lifestyle," he said. "When he is not working, he can have fun with his friends. When he came to training on Sunday [after Nantes], he did very well.
"For us, it is important that he maintains his professional level. He is young, though, and needs to be with his friends from time to time. The past few days, he has trained very well."
After a substitute appearance against Nantes, Julian Draxler is likely to start alongside Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot in midfield against Celtic.
Emery is pleased with the way Draxler has adapted to his new midfield role but believes that the Germany international can still improve.
"When Julian arrived here, we spoke about his career," Emery said. "I remember that he started with Schalke at 17 years old against my Valencia side. He is a player who has progressed in the way that many people in football expected him to.
"He still needs to improve a few things and to work on his consistency though. He needs to maintain his current level of performance and to not let that slip. He needs to stay at this pace to keep growing.
"He has played in central midfield because he has the ability to play in this position. He is important to the team because he knows how to attack but also how to defend. If he continues to show the same desire in training and in games, he will develop further. We are very happy with him and he is happy. However, we remind him to remain consistent."
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.