Barcelona v Celtic: Neil Lennon knows his side can’t let Barca Camp in their half
Celtic manager Neil Lennon might be forgiven for being ever so slightly boastful when he talks to his players before Tuesday night’s Champions League encounter with Barcelona in Spain.
Lennon admits the match will be the biggest challenge of his managerial career but he can draw inspiration from his two previous visits as a player to the home of the Catalan giants back in 2004.
“I’ve played twice in the Nou Camp and drawn twice – I don’t think there are many players who are undefeated going there,” he said with a mischievous smile.
“A lot of luck was involved, a lot of goalkeeping performances and heroic defending at times. David Marshall made two or three wonder saves in the first game, and in the second game while they had the bulk of possession – as they always do – I can’t remember them having loads of chances and I hope that will be the same on Tuesday.”
Lennon was due to fly out out to Spain to watch Barcelona away to Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga last night. He said: “You can watch them endlessly on TV but I always feel you get a better view of things when you actually watch them live.
“We all know how good they are but seeing them live and how they shape up might give us a better idea of where we are and what type of team they are. But I am going to watch the Inter Milan game from a couple of years ago, and obviously Chelsea from last season.
“You only have to look at Spartak Moscow as well, who were 2-1 up with 20 minutes to go. They created chances and I want us to create chances. Whether we’ll take them or not is another thing.
“But I want us to be able to go there and definitely have an avenue where we’ll not be sitting in and just booting the ball up the pitch and it comes straight back at us. I know that’s easier said than done.
“I’ll need pace in the team so I’ll look at that. We’re hoping James Forrest will be fit. He’s an asset no matter who we’re playing and whether we start him or he comes off the bench, I’m sure he’ll feature at some stage.”
Lennon knows that his team have to take a huge step up. “You can pass on your own experiences but these boys will be experiencing it themselves for the first time and it will be a different pace, different tempo and different quality of player from what they’re used to. Concentration is key. What I want from the team is not to be fazed.”
Lennon maintains that Celtic Park has a “more intense” atmosphere than the Nou Camp on European nights, and he would like to quieten the Catalan crowd.
He explained: “It’s not a conscious thing you do to sit back because Barcelona can make very good teams – teams better than us – look ordinary.
“They can pin you back for long periods of the game but I still want us to have some kind of outlet where we can get a foothold in our attacking half and create chances.
“It’s do-able, it’s feasible. I’ve seen Spanish clubs do it and I’ve seen European teams do it. We’ll study a lot of footage and take it from there.”
Lennon hopes that Celtic’s new-found away form in Europe will continue but accepts that Barcelona are overwhelming favourites.
“I’m not saying we’re going to go there and get hammered,” he said. “We’re going to try to get something out of the game, but we know how monumentally difficult that will be.
“I’m delighted with the approach we’ve had to the games and the way we’ve played away from home and in all those games we’ve created chances and I’m hoping we can do that on Tuesday.”
Asked who was the better between Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and and Barcelona’s genius Lionel Messi, Lennon was diplomatic, while also praising the quality throughout the Barcelona squad.
“I think we should enjoy the two of them really,” said Lennon. “I think Ronaldo is getting closer, believe it or not. If you look at the last Clasico it was just Messi v Ronaldo really.
“Messi is more of a dribbler, which we all love. That is probably why he is held in affection by more people. It is very difficult to say who is the better of the two.
“Xavi and Iniesta are probably two of the greatest midfielders who ever graced the game. These two are diminutive but giants of the game. Messi is as well, to be fair. So stop those three and we have only Fabregas and Pedro to look after...”
Any sort of result in Barcelona will be a massive achievement by Celtic, whose fans will love Lennon’s final assertion: “We will endeavour to have a go.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west