First knockout round – first leg
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has revealed that his players will show respect to Barcelona when the sides meet for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but he says they have no reason to fear the Spansh outfit.
Strachan became the first Celtic manager to lead the club to the knockout stage last season and, having been narrowly defeated by eventual winners Milan, the former Southampton boss believes his side are in with a chance tonight.
“I always think we can win,” he said. “We put on a good show last season against Milan, which went to extra time over there, so we’ve played against good sides and given good games. [Paul] Scholes, [Ryan] Giggs, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Kaká, [Andrea] Pirlo, Simão have all come here over the last few years and somehow we’ve managed to handle that. We respect great players but we don’t really fear anybody.”
Strachan is without the suspnded midfielder Scott Brown, while right-back Andreas Hinkel is cup-tied, having appeared in this competition with Sevilla. Paul Hartley and Gary Caldwell are expected to fill in at full-back.
“We just want to compete,” Strachan added. “You can only enjoy something if you compete and we hope we can compete so we can enjoy it. During the game we’ve got to try and give our good players a platform to play good football.
“We’ve got to stop Barcelona from giving their good players a platform to play, and hopefully the good players will decide the game.”
With Barca coach Frank Rijkaard serving a suspension, it was left to his assistant Johan Neeskens to discuss tonight’s game. Rijkaard is the only coach to have won a Champions League match at Celtic Park, after Barcelona beat Celtic 3-1 in the group stage three seasons ago, but his assistant refuses to read too much into that game.
“A lot has changed since that game four years ago and you can’t compare Celtic with Rangers either,” said Neeskens.
“We are more worried about Celtic as a team but McGeady, [Shunsuke] Nakamura, [Jan] Vennegoor of Hesselink and [Scott] McDonald are playing very well for them at the moment.”
For only the second time this season, Rijkaard has the talents of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry at his disposal – though it remains to be seen whether all four will start.
“We want to try and win, but with two games, we want a good away result,” added Neeskens. “We will do our best to play our game and see what the result is.”