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Expect Barcelona to gain revenge over Celtic at Parkhead

By Steven Beacom

If you know your history, you'll be aware that Celtic have enjoyed many glorious nights at Parkhead.

Few, though, have come close to last year's epic Champions League group clash in November when the mighty Barcelona came to the East End of Glasgow and departed wondering exactly what had hit them.

Well, a wall of sound for starters, created by passionate and loyal Hoops supporters determined to inspire their team and intimidate the visitors.

The fans most definitely achieved the former with Neil Lennon's men playing the game of their lives to famously run out 2-1 winners.

And while you could argue that the finest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi, plus the world class and uber-cool Xavi and Iniesta would never truly be intimidated by anything they see or hear inside a sports stadium, for my money the amazing atmosphere had an impact on them and the rest of their Barcelona team-mates.

The Catalan giants were not at their best. Celtic, both on and off the field, didn't allow it.

Ahead of Part II at Parkhead tonight, the question is can lightning strike twice?

Honest answer: I'd be shocked if it did, even with the magical Messi injured and unable to play.

Obviously the absence of the Argentine is a blow to Barcelona, but they still have enough outstanding talent in their ranks, not least Xavi, Iniesta and Brazilian superstar Neymar, to make it an extremely difficult evening for the Scottish champions.

And unlike last season, they will know what to expect.

The thundering noise inside Parkhead won't seem as loud this time and the thundering tackles from the Celtic players won't seem as fierce.

Barcelona are unbeaten so far this season, and won't want that to end to a group of players they will genuinely feel superior to.

For them it will be about dictating the pace and pattern of play and eradicating the mistakes at the back of last time as well as being more clinical when opportunities arise at Parkhead.

Great teams rarely make the same mistakes twice.

For Lennon, his players and indeed the Celtic supporters, it is games like this that they live for now.

Truth be told with no Old Firm derbies against Rangers to get hyped up for, the domestic scene in Scotland has become as dull as dishwater.

It'll remain that way until Rangers return to the top flight.

We all know Celtic will win the Scottish Premiership this season. They should win everything else too but somehow lost to Morton in the League Cup recently.

Boredom has set in. Excitement only comes at Celtic these days in the Champions League.

Lennon will relish pitting his wits against Barcelona's brilliance once more, though, he'll do so with a lesser side one year on with influential players Gary Hooper, Kelvin Wilson and, goalscorer in the 2-1 win, Victor Wanyama no longer at the club.

The Lurgan man is going to need huge performances from those who are left, led by captain Scott Brown, who missed out with injury last time.

Celtic were unfortunate to lose 2-0 in the San Siro to AC Milan in their opening Group H match. They'll need lots of luck, another magnificent team effort and Barca to be off colour to avoid defeat tonight.

Belfast Telegraph


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