Celtic confident despite earlier rout

GLASGOW • Brendan Rodgers says it is a sign of how far Celtic have progressed this season that the Scottish club's supporters believe they can defeat Barcelona tonight.

It is a belief that would have seemed preposterous just two months ago when they watched their side trudge off the pitch at the Nou Camp after suffering a 7-0 mauling at the hands of the Catalan giants.

However, positivity abounds at Celtic Park thanks in large part to an undefeated start to their Scottish Premiership title defence and a place in the League Cup final, which have given them an air of invincibility domestically.

Improvements in Europe have followed with solid performances in their surprise 3-3 draw with Manchester City and a 1-1 draw away with Borussia Monchengladbach, although these results sandwiched a disappointing 2-0 home defeat by the German side.

Celtic's Champions League ambitions are all but gone with the Parkhead club sitting bottom of Group C with two points from their four matches.

However, they retain hopes of clinching third spot and a place in the Europa League, which would guarantee European football beyond Christmas.

To achieve this they will need a repeat of Barcelona's visit to Parkhead in October 2012, when the Glasgow giants secured a shock 2-1 win over the Spanish champions.

And former Liverpool manager Rodgers says his side will need to show their teeth if they are to have a chance of emulating that remarkable result.

However, the Hoops will face a Barcelona side who also have a point to prove.

Luis Enrique's side, the tournament favourites for many, arrive in Glasgow on the back of a goal-less draw with mid-table Malaga in La Liga - the first time they have failed to score at the Nou Camp since February last year.

Lionel Messi returned to training on Monday after recovering from illness and is expected to take his place in Barca's formidable forward line alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CELTIC V BARCELONA
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Celtic confident despite earlier rout'. Print Edition | Subscribe