MOUSSA Dembele has been targeted by Roberto Mancini as Celtic‘s main danger man for Thursday’s Europa League crunch tie.
The former Manchester City manager has warned the Scottish champions he knows all about their squad, because he used to manage three of Brendan Rodgers’ players.
The Russians will arrive in Glasgow today straight from their second winter training camp in the south of Turkey.
After the first leg, they will then fly on to another training camp in Rome so Mancini’s players can avoid the big freeze in their St Petersburg base.
But the ex-Inter Milan boss is in no doubt that he expects a sizzling performance from Dembele, who has been inked with a string of top European clubs almost since the day he arrived at Celtic.
And he can add Mancini to his list of admirers.
He said: “I like him as a player. I knew about him when he was at Fulham. He’s still young, but he’s a good player. He still needs to improve, but he will.
“I expect him to be Celtic’s main threat on Thursday.
“I had three players that are at Celtic now that I had at Manchester City, Scott Sinclair, Dedryck Boyata and Olivier Ntcham. They were all younger at the time, but good players. Nir Bitton was also on trial with us at Manchester too.
“So I know a lot of their players having worked with them.
“But it’s not just them, Celtic have plenty of other good players. I am very sorry that Boyata won’t play because of his injury, but they have many excellent players to choose from instead.
“I would not say that Celtic lost a lot of important players. I know they did have a few recent injuries. But for a club like Celtic, this does not affect them.
“I can assure you we will certainly have a difficult match despite their injuries. This will not affect the intensity of the game.”
Zenit are not only the favourites to win the tie, they are one of the fancied teams to go all the way and try and win the trophy they won in 2008 when they beat Rangers in the Final.
But Mancini insists he’s only concentrating on getting past Celtic…despite an excellent Group Stages campaign.
He said: “When we started in the Europa League I thought it would be difficult for us to get through our Group because we got a very difficult group where we had to play teams like Real Sociedad and Rosenborg.
“Instead, we did very well. We got 16 points and scored 17 goals, which was more than anyone else in the Group Stages.
“So I don’t know what will happen. I think for us, it may be difficult to win the trophy because there are many strong teams left in it. But for now, our focus is on Celtic only.
“A draw is better than losing. We play to win and we will try our best. For Celtic it’s the same. They have a fantastic manager in Brendan Rodgers.”