How Will They Line Up: Celtic vs Barcelona
Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino says memories of last year’s Champions League 2-1 group defeat at Celtic will have little effect on his players during Tuesday night’s rematch between the teams at Celtic Park.
The Scottish champions famously won last November’s clash thanks to Victor Wanyama’s towering header and Tony Watt’s breakaway effort, despite Lionel Messi’s injury time strike.
However, the Argentine coach said he did not think his players would take the field thinking of getting one back over Celtic.
“I do not believe revenge exists in football,” Martino said. “You must resolve the situation in the moment. The opponent is the same, but the situation completely different.”
“Barcelona are always tasked with playing very well, the players and the coach are always analysing things closely and thinking about improving all the time. They are not thinking about what happened last season, although there are some small things you might look at from last year’s game.”
Barcelona - this time without the injured Messi - would need to be more precise and rapid in their passing and not allow Celtic’s defence to get comfortably set, Martino suggested.
“We must be much more precise, more rapid, with more movement, and try to mix up vertical moves with long spells of possession,” he said. “We will need to find a way to cause problems for Celtic’s defence.”
Injuries to Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol mean that Barca’s own defence will feature Marc Bartra, 22, who played in both last season’s group games when Barca conceded from set-pieces against Celtic.
With Jordi Alba also unavailable, and Adriano Correia a doubt after picking up a knock against Almeria on Saturday, Barca B centre-back Sergi Gomez, 21, and right-back Patric, 20, have travelled as extra cover.
While Celtic may sense an opportunity in these absences, Martino said the best way to stop opponents scoring at set-pieces was to ensure they were not awarded during the game.
“It is difficult to stop someone hitting long balls against you,” he said. “So we must adapt to their style, and be attentive to second balls. But above all we must keep possession of the ball, and not give it away too easily.
“If we manage the ball well, and win the second balls, the opponent will have less set-pieces, or corners where they can exploit their size. But when they do we must be very attentive to mark their five or six players who are over six foot.”
‘Tata’ suggested that, while Neymar was an option, Cesc Fabregas would take the place of the hamstrung Messi as Barca’s central attacker against Celtic.
“When Leo has had problems at other times, they have had to play well and win without him,” he said. “We need to play a very good game, even though we do not have Leo.”
“In Messi’s first [injury absence] we used Cesc. I do not discard the idea of playing Neymar as a centre-forward, or Alexis [Sanchez]. So if Cesc plays there tomorrow it does not mean Neymar will not play there later in the season.”