Celtic defender relishing Champions League battle with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema

The centre-back will be tasked with keeping the prolific talisman quiet at Parkhead.
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Cameron Carter-Vickers grew up watching Karim Benzema star for Real Madrid in the Champions League - and the Celtic defender is relishing his first encounter with the prolific French international tonight.

The Hoops open their group stage campaign with a glamour tie against the reigning European champions at Parkhead this evening and Carter-Vickers knows Benzema will be one of the toughest opponents he has ever faced.

The 34-year-old is regarded as one of the greatest striker’s in world football and keeping tabs on him would be a daunting prospect for any defender.

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid trains ahead of their UEFA Champions League group F match against Celtic Karim Benzema of Real Madrid trains ahead of their UEFA Champions League group F match against Celtic
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid trains ahead of their UEFA Champions League group F match against Celtic

But not Carter-Vickers who insists he is excited by the prospect of testing himself against a player of Benzema’s quality.

He stated: “I’m definitely excited to be going up against someone like him. You want to play against the very best and he is someone who is at the very top of the game. I have watched him a lot down the years.

“I have a pretty good idea of what he is good at - which is a lot of things, to be fair. Even before I started playing professionally I watched him playing for Madrid in the Champions League and winning it.

“He has been doing it for so long, which tell you the level. It shows not only hw good he is but how consistent he is too.”

Midfielder Luka Modric is another player the USA international is familiar with, despite their paths never crossing earlier in his career at Tottenham Hotspur.

Carter-Vickers explained: “I was too young to train with him personally, he was gone by the time I got there. But I knew all about him, obviously.

“Go through that Madrid team and every one of them plays at a very high level, though - and most of them have done it for a good number of years.

“We are just looking forward to it. For the majority of us, this will be our first experience of the Champions League and these are the games we all want to play in.

“I’m excited for it. It’s important for us not just to be in the group stages but to compete.”

The centre-back reckons Celtic have learned from last season’s Europa League campaign, which saw them finish third in their group behind Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and La Liga outfit Real Betis.

Carter-Vickers is convinced manager Ange Postecoglou doesn’t need to alter his attacking style against the Galacticos as he highlighted the problems it caused Leverkusen in the away fixture last year.

“We probably need to be a little bit cleverer in our defending, but also be ready to drop when required. But if we can be brave and do that it will definitely benefit us.

“Look at the two Bayer Leverkusen games as examples. This sounds silly but althought we lost 4-0 in the home game, I thought we did all right.

“Their goalkeeper made a few good saves that night and it could have been tighter. The away game was much closer. OK, we lost 3-2 but we went 2-1 up that night.

“I think it shows that we are able to adapt and improve on our performances at European level. We will go out there and try to play the way we always do.

Celtic's US defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (L) and Leverkusen's French forward Moussa Diaby (R) vie for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group G football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Celtic Celtic's US defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (L) and Leverkusen's French forward Moussa Diaby (R) vie for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group G football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Celtic
Celtic's US defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (L) and Leverkusen's French forward Moussa Diaby (R) vie for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group G football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Celtic

“I don’t think there’s much point in trying to change it because we are not used to playing a different way. If we suddenly changed we wouldn’t play as well.

“So we need to try and impose our style on the game and go from there. The crowd will help us. The atmoshpere in the stadium will be electric and we will feed off that and play to the best of our ability.”