There is a problem with Celtic drawing on history for the visit of Barcelona. For all the 2012 victory over Lionel Messi and co is rightly a source of inspiration there have been wounding experiences since.
Brendan Rodgers said Celtic have to forget what has gone before and called on his players to create new memories. “We can’t live in the past. In order to get a result against a team at this level you need to bring your A-game. You need to play the game of your life and hope you get that bit of luck.”
The Celtic manager is not of a mind to play down the strength Barcelona, albeit he did not take the shipping of seven goals lightly. “They are arguably the best team that’s ever played, with the great players they have and the level they can play at. I was bitterly disappointed how easily we conceded the goals in Barcelona. We gave away disappointing goals at the end which put a shine on the scoreline.
“I think two months down the line we’re a better team, we’re a stronger team mentally, we had to grow mentally and we’ve shown we’ve done that.
“The game itself, what will it be? It’s probably going to be they’ll have more possession but as individuals and collectively I’d like to think we’ll be much harder and more robust to play against this time.”
Celtic conceded a mere three fouls at Camp Nou. “I think we are a physical team,” Rodgers said. “I think we are an aggressive team when we defend. We are not cynical but you can make tactical fouls. That is important. Everyone will make a tactical foul. If you have to do that then that is what you do.
“It was probably a combination of many factors. First, we went into the game with a lack of preparation. It was a new team, a new squad put together, on the back of a game here [against Rangers] at the weekend. We virtually had no chance to prepare.
“The first time we did when we went away we had a decent performance in Borrusia Mönchengladbach. So the lack of preparation with a newly formed team didn’t help us. We conceded a bad goal within the first three minutes. That didn’t help. We had the chance to rectify that [with a penalty] and didn’t take it. When those opportunities come, you have to take them. The combination of their quality and our defending, which wasn’t good enough, conspired then to make a disappointing result at the end of the game.”
Manchester City endured a difficult time at Celtic Park in Group C, with the 3-3 draw an outcome Rodgers believes had a wider meaning. “Everything was firing for City then,”he said. “They were pressing, they were aggressive, they came here and arguably we have actually changed the fortune of all the teams who have played against Manchester City since then. Because after that they lost to Tottenham and they went on a run of six games where they didn’t win.
“So my players have maybe created something for others to look at, in terms of how they played the game that night. It was a great performance.”
What City did not have was Messi. Rodgers managed to keep a straight face when asked whether the return of the forward to the Barcelona team – he missed the weekend draw with Málaga because of a stomach bug – was good or bad news. “Whenever Lionel Messi plays the team are a better team both individually and collectively because he inspires them,” he said.
“If you ask any coach or manager in the world if they would rather face a Barcelona team with Messi in or out of it I know what every one of them would say.”
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