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Alexis at Da Luz. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

Barça have a great chance tonight to set themselves well on course not just for a place in the last sixteen of the Champions League, but also securing first place in their group. After two matches, they are top with the maximum six points and this evening’s visitors to the Camp Nou are Glasgow Celtic, who are second with four points. If FCB win tonight, they will move five points clear of their closest rival, with three games left to play.

Defensive changes

The spectacular 5-4 win at Riazor on Saturday showed just how much firepower Barça have up front, but also reflected the unsettled nature of the defence, which is suffering from a worrying number of absentees. Against Celtic, Barça will be missing all of Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal and Muniesa due to fitness, while Busquets has a suspension to serve after being red carded at the Stadium of Light. That means Alex Song will almost certainly have to take Busquet’s place in midfield, leaving Vilanova with one less potential defender to choose from. Mascherano, Bartra and Adriano are the most likely choices at centre back, assuming the manager opts for his usual 4-3-3 system.

Celtic return

Celtic, meanwhile, are comfortably poised at the top of the Scottish Premier League, in which they are the overwhelming favourites since the demotion of their traditional rivals Rangers. The ‘hoops’ showed their dominance in emphatic fashion last weekend with a 5-0 win away to St Mirren. What’s more, their win at Spartak Moscow finally put an end to their ‘curse’ in Champions league away matches. They have a decent record in games in this competition at the Camp Nou, having drawn 1-1 in 2004 and only been narrowly defeated, 1-0, in 2008.

Xavi Hernández, the man who scored the only goal in the last meeting between the Scots and Catalans, the second leg of the round of 16 in the 07/08 season, will be making his 150th appearance in international competitions this evening.


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