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Famous Champions League triumphs in store for Celtic, says Bhoys' NI U21 ace Hazard

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland Under-21 goalkeeper Conor Hazard believes Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers can inspire the Bhoys to some memorable nights in the Champions League this season.

Celtic, who started their European adventure by beating Linfield, kick-off the group stages of the competition at home to Paris St Germain at Parkhead tonight.

Many feel the French side, who will include the world's costliest player Neymar, will outclass the Glasgow men but Hazard believes the Hoops may be capable of creating a shock.

Hazard, 19, has been training with the first team and reveals that Rodgers has been a big help.

"The gaffer is really good, developing every player," said Hazard, who signed a new four-year deal at Celtic last week. "He has taken the club a couple of levels higher than it was. He's helped me along the way, helped me in certain situations like playing out from the back. He's going to take the club very far.

"The Champions League is very, very exciting, especially with the teams we drew, Bayern Munich, PSG and Anderlecht. Those will be great tests for us. Hopefully we can show what we are really made of and do well against them."

Hazard, a Celtic fan as a kid, added: "I've been training with the first team this year and it's been a big jump in standard from the development squad.

"The ball is moved a lot quicker, there's a lot more pressure on you. Working with Craig Gordon and Dorus de Vries is developing me really well.

"I played a few games in pre-season and I need to build on it. I just need to keep going the way I'm going and, if I get noticed, take my chance."

At Parkhead, Hazard worked with Donegal's All-Ireland-winning boss Jim McGuinness before he moved to take up a coaching role in China.

The Down man said: "Jim's a very good coach. He helped me quite a bit when I came over, especially mentally. I have high respect for Jim and was sad to see him go but it's probably better for him at the end of the day.

"I played GAA with Saul back home. I was into Gaelic and was sad to give it up. It was a tough decision growing up, whether to go for football or go for Gaelic.

"I'm glad I picked football because I wouldn't be where I am now, but Gaelic helped me with coming out for crosses. I was used to that in Gaelic, playing half-forward line or midfield."

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