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Barcelona v Celtic: Luis Suarez now best in world, insists Brendan Rodgers

Barcelona v Celtic, Champions League Group C: Nou Camp, tonight, 7.45pm

By Ronnie Esplin

Published 13/09/2016

Different class: Luis Suarez gets away from Efe Ambrose in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Celtic in Dublin in July
Different class: Luis Suarez gets away from Efe Ambrose in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Celtic in Dublin in July

Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic could park two buses at the Nou Camp tonight and still not stop Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez.

The 29-year-old Uruguay striker worked under Rodgers at Liverpool and will team up with Lionel Messi and Neymar against the Bhoys.

Ulsterman Rodgers paid tribute to the talented trio, but insists Suarez is the best player in the world and, despite the best efforts of the Scottish champions in their Champions League Group C opener, may be unstoppable.

He said: "First of all, when you speak about Luis Suarez you have to speak about the man.

"Luis Suarez is one of the most beautiful men you could come across.

"Very humble guy, who works tirelessly at his profession. He is super-professional, a family man who gives everything for his life as a footballer and his family.

"I had the pleasure of working with him for two years and he was incredible and, as a footballer, he is the best in the world.

"The biggest compliment you can give Luis is that he came to an already world-class team and he made them even better.

"And when I see them play now, Barcelona would not be the same team without Luis Suarez.

"Like all world class players, they always find a space.

"You can have tactical ideas, you can park two double decker buses in front of the goal.

"I think that sometimes the best players in the world will always find space.

"You have to try and do as much as you can to negate that and be as aggressive as you can in order to stop them and that is something we hope we will do but he is the best striker in the world at this moment in time.

"I don't think there is any question in that.

"We respect this as arguably the best team in the world with probably a front three that is maybe the best of all time.

"I know working with Luis that Luis on his own could occupy a back four defence.

"So if you add Neymar and Messi into that then of course it is a very difficult task.

"So we respect that this will be a very difficult game.

"As a manager you have to believe you can get a positive result," added Rodgers.

Despite respecting Suarez and his team-mates, Rodgers played down any notion that the match against Barcelona was a "free game" for the Hoops, who travel with confidence and with the gratitude of their fans after a 5-1 thrashing of Old Firm rival Rangers on Saturday.

He said: "For me it's not. We are here to look to get a result.

"We understand and respect the difficulties there is to get a result here, coming off the back of the intensity of the programme we have been on and the Rangers game at the weekend and everything that we put into it to get the result. We want to come and enjoy it but we want to come and get a result.

"If you want to be successful, there has to be a little bit of pressure and if you are a top player and want to be a top player you have to put yourself under that pressure to perform.

"Like I say it is a real pleasure to come here, but make no mistake about it, we are here to try to get a result and we will do everything we can against a real crack team."

Neither Suarez nor Messi started at home to Alaves on Saturday, and although they came off the bench they were unable to prevent a shock 2-1 defeat for Barca.

However, Rodgers will not read too much into the result.

He said: "My past of working with top class players is that they put themselves under pressure in every game they play.

"If they win or lose against Alaves this is still a big game for Barcelona. The danger is still the same. But we won't be fearful, that's for sure."

Meanwhile, Barca boss Luis Enrique is hoping the shockwaves from Saturday's defeat to Alaves are still not reverberating around the Nou Camp tonight.

"We were not happy of course," said Enrique. "We got back into the game but we lost. I hope it has no effect on the squad, we will have to see.

"After every game, whether it is a win or a loss, there are things to improve. Our objective is to win the next game, it is the only one we can think about.

"We don't want to think about the long run, the key thing is to beat Celtic.

"We need to play good football because it will not be easy."

Barcelona beat Celtic 3-1 in their International Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in July.

Enrique said: "It helps that we played them in pre-season, but in terms of intensity and points being at stake it is a bit different.

"We need to be a solid, reliable team home and away and, after an unexpected defeat in the league, we have to concentrate.

"I am happy to play them here and looking forward to going to one of the best stadiums in Europe.

"I am worried about some of their players, like Moussa Dembele who scored a hat-trick (against Rangers), Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts. They will give us a problem."

Belfast Telegraph

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