Nov 052012

Here We Go Again!


On Wednesday night, Celtic will take on Barcelona in the fourth round of this season’s Champions League group stage matches. We all know what the result of the last tie against the Catalan giants was only a couple of weeks ago, but many will feel that we should be buoyed by our performance that night, despite the fact we left the Camp Nou without a point to show for our efforts. Unlike in Barcelona, Neil Lennon’s Celtic are unlikely to sit back quite so much at home, as the players will almost inevitably be driven forward by the rather raucous home supporters behind them. Of course, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and co will keep the ball for large sections of the match, but nonetheless.

For those of you who are interested in history, this will be the tenth time the two clubs have met in a competitive match. The stories of the nine matches which have already taken place are told below.


Our First Encounters


The first two ties came in 1964, as Barcelona knocked the Hoops out of the “Inter-Cities Fairs Cup” in the second round of the competition. The trophy, which began in 1955 before being replaced in 1971 by the “UEFA Cup”,  was won three times by Barcelona, in 1958, 1960 and 1966. They were also runners up in 1962.

Celtic lost 3-1 in the Camp Nou on the 18th November. Zaldua and Seminario gave Barcelona a 2-0 lead within the first half an hour, before John Hughes pulled one back for the visitors with almost an hour gone. However, a late strike from Rife meant the Catalan’s would head to Barcelona with a two goal cushion.

The Celtic side that day was: Simpson, Young, Gemmell, Clark, McNeill, Kennedy, Johnstone, Cushley, Chalmers, Murdoch, Hughes.

Only two weeks later, the Hoops once again met Barcelona on the 2nd December, 1964. This would be the first time Barcelona did not defeat the team from Glasgow, and it would be one of only three occasions upon which Celtic managed to keep a clean sheet. Sadly, Celtic were unable to score, and despite earning a defiant 0-0 draw, playing the last fifteen minutes with ten men, Barcelona gained their passage to the next round of the “Inter-Cities Fairs Cup”.


Old Foes Face Each Other Once More


Considering how often Celtic have played Barcelona (relatively speaking) in the last decade, it is perplexing to think that the two clubs did not meet for almost forty years after their duals in 1964. Once again, the sides would face off in Europe’s second competition, as Celtic Park prepared to welcome one of Europe’s premier teams on the 11th March, 2004.

Earlier that day, one hundred and ninety one people were killed in a series of terrorist bombings in Madrid, with a further eighteen hundred or so suffering some form of injury in the blasts. The members of the Al-Qaeda inspired cell had brought terror to the streets of a European city, but they did not stop the European football matches scheduled for that evening.

At Celtic Park, a minute’s silence was observed prior to kick off, and Celtic Football Club and it’s supporters dedicated a stirring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to those affected by the days events in Spain. This show of support was not lost on those from Barcelona, as one journalist from “El Mundo Deportivo” described the gesture as “an extremely beautiful song of hope”.

A rendition of this song can be seen below:

Celtic had been finalists in the same competition less than a year before this match, but despite this fact, few gave the Hoops much of a chance against the team who would go onto win the La Liga title only the following season (a side sporting the likes of Ronaldhino no less).

Regardless, that night in March would soon go down in history, as Celtic defeated Barcelona for the first and only time in their history. Robert Douglas, Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper at the time, was sent off during the half time interval due to a supposed altercation in the tunnel. Thiago Motta also saw red at this point, and thus both sides started the second half with ten men.

However, Barcelona would soon be reduced to nine men as fiery striker Saviola was sent off for a kick at Thompson. A few minutes later, the home side would take the lead through an acrobatic effort from Alan Thompson (pictured above) and, with the young (virtually unknown) David Marshall between the Celtic sticks, hold on for a memorable 1-0 victory.

Highlights of the match, as well as the team line up’s from that night, can be found below:

Celtic: Douglas, Varga, Balde, McNamara, Agathe, Pearson, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson, Larsson, Beattie. Substitutes: Marshall (on for Douglas), Sylla (on for Thompson), Lambert, Wallace, Smith, Kennedy.

Once again, Celtic would meet their Catalan rivals only a fortnight later, as they took their slender 1-0 lead (and rookie goalkeeper) to the Camp Nou. Despite almost incessant Barcelona attack, Celtic held firm, and recorded a historic 0-0 draw to progress to the next round of the UEFA Cup. David Marshall, at only nineteen, was truly magnificent, saving the Hoops on countless occasions. He was so impressive that, according to Martin O’Neill, “he walked into the dressing room to fantastic applause from the rest of the side” after the match. It is worth noting too that, with the suspension of Bobo Balde, a young John Kennedy was also drafted in and played an integral rule in the Bhoys’ shut out.


Celtic: Marshall, Kennedy, McNamara, Varga, Agathe, Lennon, Pearson, Petrov, Thompson, Larsson, Sutton. Substitutes: Miller (on for McNamara), Sylla (on for Sutton), McGovern, Lambert, Mjallby, Beattie, Smith.


And Just Like London Buses…



Typical. You wait forty years for the two of world football’s most iconic sides to clash, and then they get drawn together twice in less than a year. Celtic were drawn alongside the behemoths of Barcelona, giants AC Milan and the rising force of Shaktar Donetsk. in the Champions League group stages only months after their famous triumph over the Catalan side in the UEFA Cup. These would be the first occasions upon which the clubs would meet in Europe’s premier competition.

However, there was one very noticeable change from six months previous. Henrik Larsson was no longer wearing the colours of Celtic, he was wearing those of Barcelona, having joined the club in the summer. Not only this, we were now beginning to see the emergence of names who would go on to become synonymous with Barcelona, and the side who would are now widely regarded as “one of the greatest teams ever”. Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, and Iniesta all featured, as well as Henrik Larsson. To put it into context (and with no offence intended), we started with Henri Camara up front…



Anyway, Barcelona took a first half lead through Deco, and David Marshall (now starting matches and forcing Robert Douglas onto the bench) saved a Ronaldhino penalty, before Chris Sutton equalised for Celtic with around an hour gone. This move prompted the introduction of Larsson from the Barcelona bench, and he was met with the biggest roar of applause I think any opposing player will ever receive at Celtic Park.

With approximately fifteen minutes left, Barcelona took the lead once more through Giuly, before fate tugged on the heart strings of the Celtic supporters, as Henrik Larsson scored Barcelona’s third, securing the three points for the visiting side. Whilst his team mates mobbed him in jubilation  Larsson did not celebrate his goal, before lamenting in his post match interview, “you have to do what you have to do.” Henrik would, as we all know, go on to become a Champions League winner only years later with Barcelona, and I’m sure everyone would agree it was thoroughly, thoroughly, deserved.


Celtic: Marshall, Agathe, Balde, Varga, McNamara, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, Juninho, Hartson, Camara. Substitutes: Sylla (on for McNamara), Sutton (on for Juninho), Valgaeren (on for Hartson), Douglas, Pearson, Lambert, McGeady.


A little under two months later, Celtic travelled to Barcelona for the corresponding away match in the group stage. This time, the Hoops would come away with a more positive result. Having lost their previous eight away matches in the Champions League, few gave Celtic a chance at the Camp Nou and, when Samuel Eto’o scored midway through the first half, it looked like they were going to be proven correct.

However, having barely gotten out of their own half, a set piece gave John Hartson the chance to equalise for Celtic with only moments left in the first half. Celtic defender stubbornly in the second half, and came away with a historic point to show for their efforts. With this draw, the Hoops no longer had any chance of progressing to the next round of the Champions League, but the Celtic fans in attendance didn’t seem to be too bothered. Progression to the knock out stages of the UEFA Cup now looked likely, although Celtic would proceed to “fall” at the final hurdle as a 0-0 draw with group winners AC Milan allowed Shaktar the chance to snatch third place. Interestingly, the match at the Camp Nou was refereed by Lubos Michel, the man who officiated during the 2003 UEFA Cup Final.

Celtic: Hedman, Agathe, Balde, Valgaeren, Varga, McNamara, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, Sutton, Hartson. Substitutes: Camara (on for Varga), Wallace (on for Thompson), Marshall, Juninho, Pearson, Laursen, McGeady.


The Teams Meet On The Grandest Stage Yet


In 2008, Celtic won all three of the home matches in the Champions League group stages to book their place in the round of sixteen for the second season in a row. Previously, it had taken extra time in the San Siro for AC Milan to scrape past Celtic into the quarter finals. This year, an equally gargantuan effort from Celtic saw them push Barcelona closer than many would have expected, once again.

The first leg in Glasgow was a thriller which will live long in the memory of many, despite the fact Celtic were ultimately defeated. For the first time, Celtic Park welcomed one of the greatest football players of all time, Lionel Messi (still sporting a number nineteen jersey at this point in his career). Celtic, buoyed by an incredible home support, took the lead through Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fifteen minutes into the match. However, only three minutes later, Lionel Messi introduced himself to the Parkhead faithful by scoring the first of Barcelona’s equalising goals that night.

Before half time, Barry Robson would give Celtic the lead once more, before Thierry Henry levelled things up early in the second half. With around ten minutes before, Lionel Messi, the Argentine who was still truly breaking onto the world stage at that point in time, showed his class and ability once more to score a winning goal for the Catalan visitors.

The pre-match build up, as captured by a travelling Barcelona supporter, can be viewed below (and yes, it includes the Champions League music, although you can’t hear much of it!).

Scott Brown was suspended for this tie, so the only current Celtic player who featured in this match was? Yes, substitute Georgios Samaras.

Celtic: Boruc, Caddis, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Hartley, Robson, McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink, McDonald. Substitutes: Wilson (on for Caddis), Samaras (on for Vennegoor of Hesselink), Donati (on for Hartley), Brown, Sno, Killen, O’Dea.


The return leg would see Celtic fail to reach the quarter finals of Europe’s premier competition once again, as a disappointing 1-0 defeat, sparked by an early goal from Xavi, ended the Hoops European ambitions for another season. Barcelona would go on to the semi finals where they would be beaten by the eventual winners of the tournament that year, Manchester United.

This was widely considered to be one of the coldest matches ever by the many Celtic fans who travelled to Barcelona. Our supporters were widely welcomed by the locals, as our good reputation shone through the storm created by the recent visit of Rangers and their supporters (urinating on revered monuments etc). The differences in not only temperature, but the issue of attaining tickets, are clear to see when we compare it with the recent visit to the Camp Nou. Supporters were so cold that some of them left, whilst Barcelona refused to sell home end tickets to Celtic fans, resulting in many being forced to pay ticket touts far over the odds in order to see the match. Thankfully, things would be different only a few years later.

Celtic: Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Brown, Hartley, Donati, McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesslink. Substitutes: McDonald (on for Hartley), Sno (on for Donati), Samaras (on for Vennegoor of Hesslink), M. Brown, Pressley, Robson, O’Dea.


“The Best Performance By A Visiting Team This Season”


Those were the words of one Barcelona supporter I spoke to upon exiting the Camp Nou only weeks ago. We all know the result, and how the game progressed and developed, so I won’t bore you by over-analysing it. I will say only this, Celtic, under the watchful eye of Neil Lennon, pushed the best team in the world very, very close in their own backyard. Our entire line up that night cost less than half of one of Barcelona’s substitutes (David Villa) and, whilst the defeat undoubtedly hurt, I’m sure the team will have learnt a lot from it.

Celtic: Forster, Lustig, Ambrose, Wilson, Izaguirre, Mulgrew, Brown, Ledley, Wanyama, Samaras, Hooper. Substitutes: Forrest (on for Samaras), Commons (on for Brown), Kayal (on for Mulgrew), Zaluska, Matthews, Miku, Rogne.

Below, you can find Celtic supporters celebrating Samaras’ opening goal, both home and away, as well as match highlights:


And so, as we all look to Wednesday, and our tenth competitive meeting with the Catalan giants, many of our hearts will be telling us one thing, whilst our minds try to tell us something different. Barcelona are an incredible football team, and an incredible football club, but as ever, optimism will likely reign supreme amongst the Celtic support. It will be the show piece tie of our anniversary celebrations, and both the atmosphere and the much discussed full stadium display will undoubtedly help to motivate the team hugely. In truth, anything other than a defeat will be a phenomenal result. Having seen both ourselves and Barcelona in the flesh only weeks ago, I think it will be a massive ask for the Hoops but, just like everyone else, I’ll let myself dream a little.

All in all, the two clubs have met nine times thus far. Barcelona have won five times, scoring thirteen times in nine matches. Celtic have won only once, scoring seven times, and there have been three draws. Barcelona remain the only side ever to defeat Celtic at Celtic Park in the group stages of the Champions League. No Celtic player has ever scored more than one goal against Barcelona in their Parkhead career; could Georgios Samaras become the first?

Come on you Bhoys in green.



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