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Thumbs up from Xavi during the game with Celtic in 2012

The first known contact between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC was in January 1922, when the papers reported that the Catalan club had approached the Scots in search of a friendly. The game never happened.

Celtic have won their national league almost twice as many times (47) as Barcelona (24). However, the Scottish championship had a 40-year head start on the Spanish one. So what if we only count titles won since 1928/29, when La Liga was first contested? Celtic’s 33 titles is still a superior count. Barça have won the Spanish Cup a record 28 times, and in the same period, Celtic have won 30 of their 33 Scottish Cups.

Flower power

Barça and Celtic first met in the second round of the Fairs Cups in 1964. In front what was described as a ‘weak’ crowd at the Camp Nou, Barça won 3-1. Celtic presented Barça captain Vergés with the now traditional pennant before the game, while the Scots were handed a bunch of flowers … Well, it was the sixties!

For the second leg, the talk in the papers was all about how Barcelona would cope with the cold and fog of Glasgow in December, as well as the deafening noise of Celtic Park. The game ended 0-0 and Barça progressed, but went out on away goals to Strasbourg in the very next round.

In 1965, a year after that meeting, Celtic was formed in Barcelona! Unió Esportiva Céltic borrowed the name from the Glasgow giants. However, due to the strict laws of the Franco era regarding the use of foreign names, they were originally obliged to call themselves Céltico. The club is still wearing the famous hoops today, playing in the Catalan third division.

Emotional encounter

The teams didn’t meet again until the UEFA Cup fourth round in 2003/04. The date was March 11, 2004, the day the world was in mourning after the bombings in Madrid that killed more than 200 people. Celtic Park singing You’ll Never Walk Alone in unison is always a sight to behold, but that evening’s rendition was one of the most emotionally powerful ever heard.

Celtic won that game 1-0 but goalkeeper Rab Douglas was sent off after a half-time tussle with Thiago Motta. Inexperienced 19-year-old David Marshall was fielded for the second leg at the Camp Nou and was the visitors' unlikely hero of a 0-0 draw – making one especially amazing save to deny current Barça manager Luis Enrique. Celtic progressed to the quarter finals, where they were beaten by Villarreal.

 

Messi, Xavi and Iniesta with Celtic's 125th anniversary shirt in 2012

Friends reunited

Since then, meetings between the clubs have been anything but a rarity. Celtic have made it into the Champions League seven times since 2005, and on no fewer than five of those occasions they have played Barça at some stage. The only team Barça have played more often than Celtic in that period is AC Milan, who they have met six times.

Celtic have only beaten Barça once in a Champions League game, a 2-1 win in 2012 – thus crowning an amazing week in which the Scottish club was celebrating its 125th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta posed with the famous hooped jersey, and the Barça directors attended the ceremony at St Mary’s Church, where Brother Walfrid formed the Glasgow club as a charity institution way back in 1887.

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