Celtic Park, Glasgow
1st October, 19:45 BST
Celtic host FC Barcelona at the Celtic Park tomorrow in the Champions League group stage fixture. Both these sides have faced each other quite a lot in recent times in Europe and Barcelona have generally had the upper hand in these meetings. But in their last matchup back in 2012, Celtic managed a memorable win over the Catalan giants as Victor Wanyama and Tony Watts scored for the home side; In fact at Celtic Park Barcelona have lost twice in their last four visits. The Hoops will look to put up a similar performance against a Barcelona side that have made a flying start to their campaign.
Celtic have had a fine start to their season and are currently second in the domestic league table having won six of their opening seven matches. They are coming into this game on the back of massive 2-5 win over Kilmarnock as Georgios Samaras scored a brilliant hattrick.
Celtic have found themselves in a very tough group in the Champions League this season and would realistically look for a chance to qualify to the Europa League from this group. They opened the Champions League campaign with a 2-0 defeat against AC Milan. Neil Lennon knows that his side will now have to make the most of their home fixtures and use the intimidating atmosphere of the Celtic Park to their advantage.
Celtic doesn’t have too many injury worries ahead of this fixture. New signing Steven Mouyokolo is the only absentee at the moment after injuring his Achilles before the match against AC Milan in training. There are also doubts about the fitness of Adam Matthews, who withdrawn in the first half of the match against Kilmarnock.
Neil Lennon will field a 4-5-1 formation as he will set up his side to crowd the midfield and deny Barcelona players any time or space on the ball. He is expected to make one change to the side that he fielded in their last game as Mikael Lustig will replace Matthews at the right back spot. Georgios Samaras will once again be Celtic main goal threat as he looks to intimidate the Barcelona defence with his physical presence in the box.
Expected starting line-up (4-5-1): Forster (GK); Izaguirre, Ambrose, Dijk, Lustig; Samaras, Mulgrew, Brown, Commons, Stokes; Pukki
Barcelona have made a record breaking start to their campaign after winning the first seven league games of the season. They already have five points lead over Real Madrid in the league and Atletico Madrid are the only one who are able to keep up with them at the moment. They are coming into this fixture on the back of comfortable 2-0 victory over Almeria as Lionel Messi and Adriano scored on either side of the break. New manager Gerardo Martino seemed to have settled well at his new club and Barcelona seems unstoppable at the moment.
They started their European campaign with brilliant 4-0 victory over Ajax as Lionel Messi, who will miss tonight’s fixture, scored another hattrick.
Unlike Neil Lennon, Gerardo Martino has a long list of injuries to contain with ahead of this fixture. Barcelona paid a massive price for their win against Almeria as Lionel Messi was substituted in the first half after injuring his hamstring and is set to miss out for two weeks. He joins the likes of Ibrahim Afellay, Jordi Alba, Isaac Cuenca and Carles Puyol on the side-lines.
The Barcelona manager will make just one change to the line-up that was fielded against Almeria last weekend. Brazilian international Neymar will replace Messi upfront. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the role of Messi.
Barcelona will dominate possession as expected in this match, but what remains to be seen is how the Barca defence copes with the pressure of playing in such a hostile atmosphere. It could turn out to be an awe-inspiring experience for a youngster like Bartra.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Valdes (GK); Alves, Pique, Bartra, Adriano; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Neymar, Pedro
Prediction: Celtic 1-3 Barcelona
Players to watch out for: Fraser Forster(Celtic); Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)