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Ce sont les meilleures equips! Es sind die allerbesten Mannschaften! The main event! Die Meister! Die Besten! Les grandes equips! The champions!
Yes, it’s time for that music again. The Champions League is back and Barça’s bid to win the European crown for the sixth time gets under way on Tuesday at 8.45pm CET against a familiar opponent. Hail hail … the Celts are here for the third time in just five years and they’re up against a Catalan side that will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing home defeat to Alavés at the weekend.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen missed Saturday’s game with hamstring trouble, meaning new signing Jasper Cillessen got to make his debut in the Barça goal. However, the German was able to train normally on Monday and has been included in the squad..
Messi has put his own hamstring bother behind him, so Tuesday could well bring the first chance this season to see the complete trident starting a game together.
The complete squad for the game is as follows: Ter Stegen and Jasper Cillessen are the two keepers, while the sixteen outfield players are Gerard Piqué, Iván Rakitic, Sergio, Arda Turan, Andrés Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti.
That means no places for Denis Suárez, Aleix Vidal, Jérémy Mathieu or Jordi Masip.
Celtic’s Scott Brown might have taken a knock at the weekend but he is in the travelling squad regardless. However, Leigh Griffiths (the top goalscorer in the Champions League qualifying campaign) is still out with a torn hamstring.
Speaking on Monday, Barça manager Luis Enrique said that “it’s useful to have faced Celtic in the preseason. They can be difficult to play against and did well to get through their qualifying rounds.”
“There were easier teams than them in the fourth seeding bracket, but we like playing against historic teams … and against such exemplary fans. In a sporting sense, it’s Dembélé, Forrest and Roberts who worry me the most.”
At his own conference later in the day, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers insisted that there is no fear in the Hoops camp. “We respect that this is arguably the best team in the world with probably a front three that may be one of the best of all time" he said. "But as a manager you go into every game believing you can get a positive result.”
The name of Luis Suarez naturally came up, who Rodgers coached in his Liverpool days. “He is one of the most beautiful men you can come across” he told reporters. "He's humble and works tirelessly. He's super professional, a family man, and he gives everything for his life and football.”
Barça’s season had got off to a typically stylish start, which made the 2-1 defeat at home to Alavés on Saturday all the more surprising. It should however be noted that the likes of Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets were rested for that match, and Messi, Suárez and Iniesta didn’t come on until the second half – all of whom are likely to start on Tuesday. In Europe, remember, Barça are chasing a twelfth consecutive win at the Camp Nou.
Celtic’s rampant start to their Scottish Premier campaign was crowned on Saturday by a 5-1 rout of Glasgow rivals Rangers in the league’s first Old Firm derby for four seasons. To reach the Champions League group stage, they have had to steer their way through three qualifying matches. Not without a few scares, they successfully disposed of Lincoln FC (Gibraltar), FC Astana (Kazakhstan) and Hapoel Beer-Sheva (Israel).
This is the seventh time since 2005 that Celtic have made it into the Champions League and only on two of those occasions have they not met Barça at some point! In the last four years the Celts have actually played Barça more often than Rangers!
Celtic’s only win in all those games was a 2-1 victory at Parkhead in 2012, and their 6-1 loss at the Camp Nou in 2013 was their heaviest ever in Europe. But the 1967 champions, who put Barça out of the UEFA Cup in 2004, have usually been very difficult opponents to cut down – and their colourful fans have always been a pleasure to welcome to the Camp Nou.
Of course the teams also met far more recently, in a preseason friendly at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Barça won that game 3-1 – and here’s a video reminder.
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