Celtic is set to host the Spanish giant Barcelona on Wednesday night at the Celtic Park in Glasgow. It is a clash between the bottom ranked and the top ranked team of the Group C. However, even with only two points to their name, Celtic can still reach the knockout stage, but in order to do so many things should play out in their favor, which is less likely to happen. The more likely scenario for the Scottish team is the battle for the 3rd place in the group and the Europe League. On the other side, the visitors need only 1 point to secure the next stage.
As soon as the groups of the new Champions league campaign were drawn, it was clear that Celtic will have a tough time to play a more important role in the Group C, next to the likes of Barcelona, Man. City and Monchengladbach. However, with only two legs to go, Celtic can still grab the 2nd place and reach the next stage, but these chances are very slim. Even the battle for the 3rd place will be tough considering that Monchengladbach is ahead with 2 points, while Celtic, in order to grab the 3rd place, needs to win Barcelona at the Celtic Park, or Manchester City away in the last leg. In addition, the German team would have to lose both games.
All of these will only increase the motive for the hosts going into the clash against the giants Barcelona. In the domestic competition, Celtic has been superior, sitting comfortably at the top of the standings with 10 points ahead of the next closest opponent. Coach Rodgers will send the best players onto the pitch, considering that all players are fit and will be ready to play, except Tierney, who is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Barcelona had a nice chance in the last leg to secure, not only the knockout stage, but also the top place of the group. However, for some reason, their game fell apart and they ended up conceding 3 goals and losing 3:1 away to Manchester City. On Wednesday night they will get a second chance to close out the group and secure the next round with 1 leg to go.
While they are still playing pretty decent in the Champions league, the Spanish giants are desperate in the domestic league. Their form in the Spanish La liga has been far from convincing which was confirmed in their last game against Malaga, when they manage to secure a poor 0:0 draw. Suarez and Messi have not played in this match, which was reflected immediately on the final outcome. There is no doubt that the Suarez – Neymar – Messi trio will be fit for the clash against the Celtic, while Iniesta, Mathieu and Umtiti are still listed as injured and will most likely miss the match.
I expect a very open game, especially from the hosts, who will lay everything out on the pitch in order to win some extra points. This type of strategy is very risky when playing against teams like Barcelona, who will punish the smallest errors. However, my prediction is that there will be a lot of goals scored in this match, giving the slight advantage to the visitors, who will look to qualify for the next round of the UEFA Champions league.
Celtic expected lineup: Gordon – Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre – S.Brown – Forrest, Armstrong, Roberts, Sinclair – Dembele
Coach: Brendan Rodgers
Barcelona expected lineup: ter Stegen – S.Roberto, Pique, Mascherano, J.Alba – Busquets, A.Gomes, Rakitic – Messi, L.Suarez, Neymar
Coach: Luis Enrique
Celtic vs Barcelona
UEFA Champions League – Group C
Date: Wednesday, 23rd November 2016.
Kick-off at 20:45 UK.
Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow.