First Knockout round – 2nd leg (First leg: Celtic 2-3 Barcelona)
Despite holding a 3-2 advantage from the first leg a fortnight ago, Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard is taking nothing for granted ahead of their second leg encounter against Celtic.
“Celtic are a really good side and I don’t think there is a massive difference between us,” said the Dutchman.
“We have a history of playing each other in recent years but, to me, it is this challenge at the Camp Nou, rather than the results of the last few years, which is important to focus on. Champions League nights at the Camp Nou really are wonderful and we love playing them. Our goal is always to give our public spectacle, great football and the right result. It’s an important combination for our fans.”
Celtic’s two previous visits to Barcelona, in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup and the 2004-05 Champions League, resulted in draws. A draw tonight would not be enough for Celtic and Rijkaard is expecting the Scottish champions to come out fighting.
“I am certain Celtic are preparing to put on a great performance,” he acknowledged. “But the Champions League is very, very important to us. We’ll do our job.”
Rijkaard is without the injured Rafael Márquez as well as Edmílson and Giovani Dos Santos – but Messi and Yaya Touré should be available.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is fully aware that a huge task lies ahead for him and his players. Celtic have not won away in 16 Champions League matches while, in the group stage, Barcelona won all three home games with eight goals scored and only one conceded.
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of fear,” said Strachan.
“It can push you on to greater things. I hope that before the match my players feel a mixture of fear, determination and excitement. When we have the ball, I’d like my players to make Barça fear us.”
“We are angry that individually and collectively we didn’t play our best in the first game,” continued Strachan.
“My team must hold on to the ball better and be braver in what we do with our possession. This may be the football equivalent of climbing Everest but people have conquered Everest. It’s just that some who tried didn’t make it back!”