FC Barcelona and Celtic FC face each other in another bout of UEFA Champions League football at the Camp Nou as this first knockout round, second-leg tie looks set to be a passionate encounter....
Frank Rijkaard told the assembled press this evening that he is certain that the match will be an entertaining affair in spite of his side’s need to effectively kill off the tie and protect their 3-2 lead established two weeks ago in Glasgow. Rijkaard has now faced Celtic three times in UEFA competition as coach of FC Barcelona and knows that the Scottish champions will provide a stern test of his side's resolve.
Rijkaard said “Celtic are great side and I don't think there is a massive difference between us. We have a history of playing each other in recent years but, to me, it is this challenge at the Camp Nou, rather than the results of the last few years; that is our focus. Champions League nights at the Camp Nou really are wonderful and we love playing them. Our goal is always to give our public spectacle, great football and the right result. It's an important combination for our fans.”
Barcelona have enough of a lead in the match that would mean a repeat of Celtic’s last two visits to the Camp Nou, both of which ended in draws, would not be enough for the visiting side to progress through to the next round.
Rijkaard insisted that his side will not throw away all of the hard work that saw them come from behind twice at Parkhead to give Barcelona 3 vital away goals and emphasised that "The Champions League is very, very important to us. We'll do our job."
Rijkaard will have to do without the injured Rafael Márquez and will also miss Edmílson and Giovani Dos Santos. However, after coming in for fierce criticism from the Catalan press for resting players in the weekend defeat to Atletico Madrid, Rijkaard is certain to include Lio Messi and Yaya Touré in the side.
The form book clearly favours a home win: Celtic have not won away in 16 UEFA Champions League matches while, in the group stage, Barcelona won all three home games with eight goals scored and only one conceded.
However, Celtic boss Gordon Strachan insisted that his side will not be intimidated and that respect for Barcelona will drive his side on, saying "There's nothing wrong with a bit of fear. It can push you on to greater things. I hope that before the match my players feel a mixture of fear, determination and excitement. When we have the ball, I'd like my players to make Barça fear us."
In typical fashion, Strachan’s sense of humour made light of the task ahead and when asked if beating Barcelona would be like climbing Everest, the Scot replied “People have conquered Everest. It's just that some who tried didn't make it back!"