Barça are back at Celtic Park on Wednesday night (8.45pm) for the sixth time in just twelve years. And it’s a game the players have been looking forward to ever since the draw was made. They know that the atmosphere inside the 60,411 venue, dubbed ‘Paradise’ by the home supporters, is one of the most powerful in Europe.
As the great Xavi Hernández once said: “I don’t think I have seen anything like the Celtic fans in all the stadiums I have played at. When you step out at Celtic Park, the atmosphere they create for their team is incredible. It doesn’t matter how many big games you have played in, walking out into that atmosphere is always intense.”
Leo Messi, who will be looking to add to his tally of three goals at Parkhead, is another fervent admirer of the Hoops. “I’ve been fortunate to play in some great stadiums in Europe with Barcelona but none compare to Celtic” he said after the game in 2013. The Argentinian has also been quoted as admitting that “I have a Celtic jersey at home. The games against Celtic were special and I want to remember them.”
Andrés Iniesta is another player who was awe-struck by the famous ground: “I have played many games for Spain and Barça but I've never heard fans like Celtic” he said in 2012. “They were amazing, not quiet for a single second! The Celtic fans are very special and the club and players can be very proud of them. They are the best I have ever heard.”
Defender Gerard Piqué, who tweeted after the last trip to Glasgow that he had “no words to describe the atmosphere at Celtic Park" is another Barça player who ranks the stadium top of his European noise-list.
This will be Luis Enrique’s first experience of Celtic Park. When Barça met the Scots in the 2003-04 season, his last as a professional player, he sat the game out through suspension.
But he too knows exactly what to expect. Speaking immediately after learning who his team would be meeting in Champions League Group C, the first team manager said “we will be happy to go to one of the most atmospheric stadiums in Europe knowing that their fans will have a great sporting image and offer their full support to the team."
Whatever the outcome on Wednesday night, one thing is for sure. There's going to be a show, and the Glasgow Celtic (and Barça) will be there.