Speaking before his team’s Champions League opener against Barça, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers did not hold back with his admiration for the Catalan giants, even admitting that "I took my son here to watch Barça B at the Miniestadi on his 13th birthday when Nolito and Thiago, who I tried to sign for Liverpool, were playing."
"I have a great love of how the club operates and the values they have here. I'm a huge admirer of everything the club stands for."
He went even further when asked about Barça striker Luis Suárez, who served under him in his Liverpool days. “He is one of the most beautiful men you could come across” said the Northern Irishman. “He is super-professional, a family man who gives everything for his life as a footballer and his family.”
“I had the pleasure of working with him for two years and he was incredible and as a footballer, he is the best in the world … Barcelona would not be the same team without Luis Suarez.”
"Stop him? It's very, very difficult. Like all world-class players, they always find the space. You can have all the tactical ideas and systems, you can park two double-decker buses in front of goal, but the world's best players always find the space."
But despite all that glowing praise, Rodgers is a man with a very clear mission. "We're not here just to be a passenger” he insists. "Barcelona test you physically, tactically and mentally. Their style of play over the last 30 years tests you and it's a challenge we're relishing. Better teams than us have found it difficult, but we're looking forward to it. We understand the difficulty. We want to enjoy it, but we want to get a result."
As for the effect Barça’s shock 2-1 defeat at home to Alavés might have on Tuesday’s game, the Celtic coach believes that "their loss can be a positive for us, but it can also work the other way. You can waken up a team with a result like that."
Australian midfielder Tom Rogic also faced the press on Monday evening, commenting on “the way Barcelona wear teams down, the amount of passes they play every single match. They’re well known for their style of football, the way they play.”
“We respect them. We know where they are in world football. But we’re in a good moment too and must focus on ourselves.”