Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard’s pleasure at seeing his side reach the Champions League quarter-finals was tempered by a thigh injury to Lionel Messi.
Xavi Hernández’s early goal had already set Barcelona on the way to a comfortable 4-2 aggregate defeat of Celtic, but Rijkaard was more concerned with the injury that forced Messi to leave the pitch.
“Messi’s injury affected the team tonight. He has been injured before and it’s a very sad moment,” said Rijkaard. “Tomorrow we will get the results of the medical tests and we hope it’s not as bad as it looks. The club medical staff are here to help players avoid getting injured and that’s what we’re all doing. The players’ health is the most important thing; Messi was very sad and it’s an injury he’s had before.
“Celtic played well tonight and was getting better as the game went on. We started well and scored an early goal. Celtic were playing with confidence and giving us a hard time as usual.
“Xavi’s goal was very good and important, he’s a decisive player for us. You can’t underestimate your rivals but Messi’s injury affected the rest of the substitutes I made during the game, that’s why I decided against fielding Bojan [Krkic].”
Despite the result, Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was pleased with his side’s performance.
“We had a plan for tonight’s game but we didn’t do it,” he said. “We didn’t have many chances to score, but we did have them. We created spaces which we didn’t see in the first leg. In this match we saw a progression and better performances.
“In the second half the team freed itself of worry and we saw a better Celtic, more confident and freer. We talked about that and we can use this for the future. I do believe we can get the team into the last eight and I’m sure the players are reflecting on that because we could have won against Barcelona and we could get further in the competition next time.
“We’re not demoralised but I do think we did too much thinking and sometimes you have to play with the heart, but we’re working on that.”