Sep 302013
 

Celtic and Barcelona Fans Look Forward To Tomorrow’s Match

 

 

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe…”

 

Tomorrow night, Celtic Park will welcome the Catalan giants of Barcelona to the East End of Glasgow for the second time in the space of a year. Celtic’s victory last year will live forever with the majority of Celtic supporters who were fortunate enough to witness it, whether it was in person or via the wonders of modern technology. Below, you will find the thoughts and opinions of several supporters of both sides. Again, all feedback regarding this feature is welcome as we look to improve it as time goes on.

Few teams beat Barcelona nowadays, and even fewer repeat the feat twice in a single year. Can Celtic pull off another memorable result and live the impossible dream? Or will the Catalans leave Glasgow with three important points? Let’s see what the fans think (more opinions will be published here as the match approaches).

 

 

Alexandra Johnson is a Swedish freelance journalist in Barcelona. She supports both FC Barcelona and Malmö FF. She can be followed on Twitter – @alexandrajonson.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported Barcelona?

I’m originally from a town just outside of Malmö in Sweden but have lived in Barcelona for a bit over a year now. I started to support FC Barcelona when I was about 11 years old as my childhood hero and Celtic legend Henrik Larsson signed for the club.

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

I’ve always loved football as a kid, but before I saw Barça play I wasn’t too found of watching football matches. They were too long, too boring and I was too restless. But as Henrik signed for the Blaugrana they started to show Spanish football for the first time on Swedish TV. Henrik was my hero so of course I wouldn’t miss his debut for one of what I’ve heard best teams in the world. Henrik started on the bench but by the time he came on I was already in love with this team. I had never had so fun watching football and for the first time I didn’t want the game ever to stop. It wasn’t any special game for Barça just a 2-0 away win over Racing Santander. But I had never enjoyed football that much and since that day I was stuck. It was the way they played how they looked like a bunch of kids on the street just having fun. Then the more I learnt about the club the more it grew on me. The identity and their values was all something I could relate to.

 

3. How do you feel Barcelona have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Almeria?

It’s a different Barça this season. Suddenly the possession isn’t the most important thing in the world anymore. Tata has done some great changes and needed ones with the team. However I’m very concerned about the defence. With that I’m not only talking about the centre-backs but the entire team. We’ve seen quite a few games where Barça been saved at numerous times by Victor Valdés, who has been bloody brilliant this season. Even if the attack from Barça been great and it’s nice to see more players getting on the scoresheet than Leo, there has been to many slip-ups and failed passes lately. However I don’t think this will be a problem in the league but against some of Europe’s top clubs in the Champions League it can create troubles to that point that Victor might won’t be enough to save the Catalans. Except for Victor there was one very positive thing with the Almería game and that was youngster Marc Bartra who probably played his best game to date. I’ve said it for a while now that the CB Barça are seeking already is in the team it’s Bartra, he just hasn’t got the chances he deserves and needs. I think against Almería he showed that and hopefully Tata will put his trust in the boy.

 

4. What are the thoughts of the Barcelona fans regarding their new manager, Tata Martino, and their biggest summer signing, Neymar? Do you think Barcelona are a stronger side now than when they last visited Celtic Park?

I think most Barça fans are happy with Tata, he has done a good job and has the right philosophy. How much everyone loves Pep or wanted to trust Tito I think most fans are agreeing that there needed to come someone from “outside the house” so to speak and Tata was a great choice by the board. When it comes to Neymar most fans love him and they did already before his first game. However I wasn’t too found of the Neymar signing, not because I don’t like him or don’t think he is an amazing player. But the signing came at a time when Barça didn’t need a forward. In need of a new goalkeeper and CB that should have been the clubs priorities. Also the board are constantly saying that the club have it bad economically speaking still they throw away that kind of money on a player they are not in instant need of. It also affected younger players like Deulofeu as well as it made Thiago leave. Not because Thiago and Neymar has the same position but because the club didn’t show any what so ever will to try and keep Thiago in the club and the talks about Neymar getting Thiago’s 11 was made quite publicly without the club doing anything about it. Thiago felt unwanted and left. But that’s just my point of view. In general Neymar is a good player and have done a tremendous work on the pitch since arriving.

Well this time Barça will visit Celtic Park without Lionel Messi, so that makes them a weaker side. But except that I think it’s hard to say. Barça is defiantly another side this time with Tata on the bench instead of Tito. Last season was very hectic for the team mentally with everything that happened off the pitch so in that sense I believe the team “feels” better this time around. However as mentioned the defence is worse but with Victor Valdés in the form of his life, that might not matter.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for Barcelona?

 

celticbarca1

 

Victor Valdés, Adriano, Gerard Piqué, Marc Bartra, Dani Alvés, Busquets, Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Pedro, Neymar.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Cristian Tello coming on during the 2nd half. And if Barça somehow would manage to have a very controlled lead, I’d love Tata to put on B-team player Patric, who been fantastic for Barça B this season. Would be a well deserved debut for the kid.

 

6. How do you feel Barcelona will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics? Do you think they will need to do anything differently from their last visit to Glasgow?

I believe Barça will go out in the same way as they do against all teams. They know it will be difficult to break down the Celtic defence and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to use the wings a lot. But in general I’d say they’ll go out like they always do. There will be things that are going to be different since the last visit, mainly because there is a new coach with new ideas but the basics are the same.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

I’ve always loved Celtic. As I mentioned before Henrik Larsson was my childhood hero and well my first ever football shirt that I got when I was about 7 years old was a Celtic shirt with Larsson on the back. To this day that’s my favourite in my huge football shirt collection. But to be honest I never watched especially many Celtic games, they didn’t have the Scottish league on TV in Sweden when I was a kid and then everything became about Barça for me. But I always try to catch their CL games though. But what I love with Celtic is the same thing as with my hometown club Malmö FF. It’s not particular the football but the atmosphere and the fans. As a kid I would go to all Malmö FF’s home games only to enjoy the supporters, since the football was shit. So well my biggest and best impression of Celtic is it’s supporters and the atmosphere. They are always very nice as well and one of my biggest wish is to one day go to Glasgow and get to experience a game at Celtic Park.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel Barcelona will need to watch out for in particular?

As I mentioned before, I have sadly not watched especially many Celtic games. But I guess Georgios Samaras is a man to look out for. He created some bit of trouble for Barça at Camp Nou last season I recall. Then it’s always hard to break down Forster in goal, he always seem to be at the top of his game vs Barça.

 

9. Where do you think Barcelona will finish in La Liga this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

Before the season started looking at the signings, changes and circumstances. I was quite sure Real Madrid would win the La Liga this season, might even be a huge threat for the CL title. And that Barça would have difficult season with all the changes that’s been going on in the club. However Real Madrid have faced bigger troubles then I’ve expected so because of that I think Barça will win La Liga this season. Atletico Madrid will put a big threat though and I’m still in the opinion that Barça are having a bit of problems. But so far Victor have kept them from losing points and if he can keep on with that until the team is back in the right momentum, then they’ll be hard to stop. However if Atletico keeps this up it will be a fight until the end.

I’m confident Barça will win group H but I believe they will face problems later on in the tournament and for the first time in years I’m not too sure they’ll reach the semi-finals.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at Celtic Park?

I’d say Messi will score but I guess not even him can score while not playing. No, it will be a even game but Victor is too good in a form to let anything past him. 2-0 I’d say and put two wild guesses on Andrés Iniesta and Cristian Tello for the goals.

 

 

Craig (@Creg1888) is the editor of “CeltsAreHere.com”.

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

From the Jock Stein stand. One of the lucky season ticket holders who took advantage of the cheap three match package.

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

Forster, Lustig, Ambrose, Van Dijk, Izzy, Matthews, Brown, Ledley (if fit, Mulgrew otherwise), Sammy, Commons, Stokes.

 

celticbarca3

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

Much like the Milan only hoping for better penetration in the final third. Matthews on the right wing to carry the ball up the park when we do have possession but he really needs to get that final ball in. Commons just in behind Stokes with him and Sammy alternating between LM and SS. Has to be one up top, Stokes can hold up the play much like Miku did the last time Barca were in town, can also thread decent balls through for others. Thinking a Virgil Van Dijk header from a corner could be fruitful. I imagine set pieces will be heavily worked on up until the game tomorrow.

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

All depends on the Ajax double header to be honest. Right now I’m worried we may finish dead last but I hope I’m wrong. We must learn from the Milan game. Yes, we played well but we fell short once again. Must be ruthless now.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

My head says it’s a 3-1 win to Barcelona my heart is saying 1-0 Celtic. Whatever happens it will be another fantastic night under the lights at Celtic Park. Win, lose or draw we wouldn’t be anywhere else, would we?

 

 

 

Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) is a freelance football journalist with a particular interest in English, Brazilian, Spanish and German football.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported Barcelona?

I currently live in São Paulo, Brazil. I have supported Barcelona for almost 13 years, a fanatic fan since 2004.

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

I started watching Barcelona because of the Brazilian stars that played there. Romário is one of my favorite players, his short and incredible spell at Barcelona was the first thing that made me start looking at the club differently. What really cemented my support for the club was Rivaldo, my favorite Brazilian player of the last generation with some of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever seen, especially vs Valencia with a hattrick. I became a “true” Barcelona fanatic because of Ronaldinho, his magic is something I’ll never forget, completely changed the club’s history and mentality, leading to the 2006 UCL and the legendary exhibition at the Santiago Bernabéu.

 

3. How do you feel Barcelona have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Almeria?

Barcelona has played well this season considering Tito had to leave for treatment and a coach with no European experience replaced him at the helm, tough job. The team has a lot to improve defensively and I expect to see better football throughout the season, I can’t ask for better results as Martino’s delivered a title (Supercup) and won all the league matches he coached Barcelona. The performance vs Almeria turned out to be a stroll because of their lack of attacking prowess and an early Messi goal to give the team some tranquility, Xavi performance was refreshing.

 

4. What are the thoughts of the Barcelona fans regarding their new manager, Tata Martino, and their biggest summer signing, Neymar? Do you think Barcelona are a stronger side now than when they last visited Celtic Park?

Barça fans are in the middle of a long honeymoon with Tata Martino. Every single one of his press conferences are a joy to listen and he’s completely focused on the footballing aspect of the game, was quick to notice it’s a waste of time to discuss politics and Real Madrid. He’s a very smart manager and his rotation policy is a huge success, so are the results. Some performances have been lacklustre, but it’s natural as he can’t fully implement his ideas after a few months.

The team is significantly better since visiting Celtic Park last season, the mentality has changed, now it’s common knowledge among players that Celtic cannot be underestimated. Neymar could make the difference in the game even without Messi. The Brazilian youngster is a wonder and didn’t took long to fit right into the team as a starter, 2 goals and 5 assists is something to behold.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for Barcelona?

Valdés – Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Adriano – Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta – Neymar, Fàbregas, Pedro.

 

celticbarca5

 

6. How do you feel Barcelona will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics? Do you think they will need to do anything differently from their last visit to Glasgow? 

Barcelona will play without Messi, one would thing a lot changes in terms of tactics without him, but I doubt Martino will do anything different than usual, Neymar will stay on the left, Cesc as false 9 and Pedro on the left.

I would particularly use Neymar as a forward with Fàbregas behind and Pedro wide on the left, using the free space Celtic will leave while focusing on the Brazilian.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

Celtic is one of my favourite clubs in Europe, I can’t say I’m a supporter because I don’t watch the club as much as I’d like, the Scottish League isn’t licensed in Brazil either (unfortunately). I sympathize because some of the nicest people I’ve met on football support Celtic and the undying love people have for the club is wonderful, I feel it’s the only club that rivals Borussia Dortmund in terms of cheerfulness. The relationship between Barcelona and Celtic is great too, which makes it even better. There’s a mutual respect between clubs.

There’s also the 1967 European Cup Final, a fantastic attacking exhibition by Jock Stein’s men that overcame Herrera’s Catenaccio. Suffice to say it’s absolutely wonderful to see attacking football winning over one of the greatest defensive minded coaches of all time. My favourite European final along the 2005 UCL.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel Barcelona will need to watch out for in particular?

Barcelona has to watch out for Samaras. The Greek attacker scored a hattrick in his last game and given the currently dodgy defence he could score anytime, especially with Piqué having positional nightmares lately. Scoring on Forster is the main difficulty, had two amazing matches against Barça last season and I’m certain he’ll make the difference again.

 

9. Where do you think Barcelona will finish in La Liga this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

I think Barcelona will win La Liga, Real Madrid is 5 points behind in the middle of a crisis and Atlético Madrid won’t be able to keep up until the end of the season. Barça will probably finish the Group H as the leader, although slip ups against Milan and Celtic could complicate things a bit.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at Celtic Park? 

Match will end in a draw, 1-1 or 2-2.
 

 

 

Matt is a Celtic supporter from the United States of America (@monbud).

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

I’ll be watching the match from my office here on the East Coast of the US. Have the Fox Soccer subscription which shows all the CL and Europa League matches so it’s a great way to keep up. Luckily the IT guy is a huge football fan and a Barca supporter so I’ll hear no cross words about my bandwidth use.

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

 

celticbarca4

 

Forster; Lustig-Ambrose-Virgil-Matthews; Boerrigter-Brown-Mulgrew-Samaras; Commons; Stokes. I think with Ledley a sure miss this is really the only XI that makes any sense v Barca. I don’t think Forrest is match-fit enough to start this one so I slotted in Derk, who I hope can get back on defence as Samaras certainly won’t.

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

As noted I think the wings are going to need to be extremely defensively responsible in addition to being able to make some forays forward into the Barcelona back, which is their weakest spot. Bit of a catch-22 for any Barca opponent as they are so good up front even without Messi, but they can be exploited at the back, but the strategy needs to be perfectly balanced and executed. There’s going to be 10 minutes of the sides feeling each other out so someone like Samaras or Stokes capitalizing early would be a huge lift for the Celts.

Otherwise you just have to hope the back line does its job. Some physicality from the centre backs is essential to keep Neymar and company from getting too settled, but they need to keep their heads. Efe and Virgil are really the only two centre backs we have on the roster and a yellow or heaven forbid a red in this game would handicap the pairing considerably in the rest of the group stages. I thought the narrow setup last season worked really well, Celtic can afford to give Barcelona the sides as crosses into the box are not their strength.

Up front, Stokes and Commons above all need to be responsible with the ball, there was way too much foolery and bad passing vs Kilmarnock at the weekend and that certainly isn’t going to fly in the Champions League. Every possession needs to be curated well and no chance wasted, especially on set pieces which is where I think Celtic can steal a goal. Corners need to be a lot better than they have been especially off the foot of Commons. Mulgrew seems to be on a bit of an upswing; I think he’ll drop back into defence as the game goes on but his ability on free kicks is important. Broony probably has the toughest job of them all replacing Wanyama against a really solid Barca midfield, and he won’t have much help there from Samaras or Derk/Forrest…

And then finally Forster needs to be La Gran Muralla again instead of the tentative octopus-in-high-socks performance we’ve seen quite a few times already this year. I have full confidence in all of the players bringing their A-games tomorrow though, they’ll have to.

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

A lot depends on the Ajax-Milan result tomorrow, although I believe that third place is more likely to happen than last place, and another stunner of a second-place finish is still possible.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

So far this year we’ve seen Celtic play down to some really poor domestic competition, and aside from Cliftonville they played down to Elfsborg and Shakhter Karagandy as well. But on the flip side they played well up to Milan and should have at least drew that game. So I’ll be optimistic and say tomorrow night will be a tidy 1-1 draw with a second-half goal from Samaras!

C’mon the Hoops!!!

 

Josh Sajjad is a Celtic supporter from Glasgow (@jaysajjad on Twitter).

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

I’ll be watching the game in the Lisbon Lions Stand, row BB, seat 17!

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

This is a tough one. I’d go 4-5-1:

 

celticbarca2

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

Best way to approach it is to keep the ball/possession for the first 15 minutes, thus not giving them time to settle as they so often do. With no Messi they don’t actually have an out and out forward so CB’s must look to be aggressive. Saying that, they’re defence is the weakest part so getting Sammy and Forrest in some space and letting them attack the defence could go a long way.

Possession and counter attacking would be key for me!

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

If we’d have beaten Milan I would’ve said 2nd, now I’d take 3rd place and think we’ll get it.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

Heart tells me 3-1 to us, head says 1-0 either way!

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