Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini insists he is “not overly concerned” by the battle for first place in Group E, but he is confident side can become only the second club to defeat Celtic on home soil at this stage of the Champions League.
Barcelona, who won at Celtic Park in the 2004-05 campaign, are the only team to do so. Yet Pellegrini is confident his players can strengthen that emulate their compatriots.
“In terms of finishing first in the section, I’m not overly concerned about that,” he said. “We have qualified for the last 16 and, in doing so, achieved our main goal. So I’m not thinking about beating Manchester United to first place, just about playing a match against Celtic in their fantastic stadium – that is our motivation. It appears to be difficult to win here, but every game is different and, hopefully, we can do just that.”
With Javi Venta, Robert Pires and the Spanish club’s top scorer in the competition this season, Joseba Llorente, all injured and left-back Joan Capdevila suspended after his sending-off against United on Matchday 5, Pellegrini will be forced to make changes.
Pellegrini conceded there “will definitely be changes” to the team that came from three goals down to earn a point at home to Getafe on Saturday.
For Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, meanwhile, little more than pride is at stake. Their Champions League campaign neded two weeks ago when AaB inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Scottish champions in Denmark.
“It’s a strange feeling because on a good night things could have been very different,” he said. “We had the chances to win both matches against Aalborg. And, against Manchester United, we were six minutes away from taking all three points – although they played some wonderful football in the second half.
“That’s behind us now, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be giving 100 per cent for the win. The players we have here are a proud bunch and we want to give the fans something to smile about.”
Strachan is without Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson due to injury.