Brendan Rodgers sought to put a brave face on the heaviest defeat of Celtic’s European history after they were humbled 7-0 by a rampant Barcelona on their return to Champions League group stage football.
The Celtic manager insisted his team should not feel embarrassed by the result at the Nou Camp, reasoning that more superior teams than the Scottish champions have also sustained big losses at the same venue in recent years.
Rodgers, who felt Celtic’s exertions in their 5-1 win over Rangers on Saturday adversely affected their condition last night, is confident his players can learn and improve from the chastening experience they suffered at the hands of the Spanish champions.
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick, Luis Suarez struck twice, with Neymar and Andres Iniesta completing a rout which Rodgers accepted was painful to go through.
“Tonight is one of those nights you have to take,” he said. “There can be no embarrassment because Barcelona have done it to better teams than ourselves.
“Professionally, it is never nice when it happens. It doesn’t matter that Barcelona are the team they are. It’s tough to take when you lose so many goals. The players couldn’t have come to a more difficult place after playing such an intense game at the weekend.
“There was hardly any preparation to face a team who beat you up with the ball at times. The last 15 minutes felt quite long.
“You can’t be too downhearted, but there is a professional pride. Whether you are playing Barcelona or Berwick Rangers, there is professional pride to play for. No team likes to lose like that.
“But this won’t hamper us in any way. We will always take positives from it. It’s still very early for us working together as a team. We will recover, rest tomorrow and see what areas we can improve.”
Rodgers reflected ruefully on a 24th-minute penalty kick from Moussa Dembele which was saved by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen when the score was 1-0.
“There is a massive moment in the first half,” added Rodgers. “If you get the penalty and get to 1-1, you can make the crowd a bit nervous after Barcelona’s weekend loss here [to Alaves]. We lost the second goal very quickly after that, which was disappointing.
“We knew the next goal after half-time was going to be very important. They got it to go 3-0 up, then the combination of our tiredness and their freshness and quality showed.
“They have done it to much better teams than us. But at the end of the game, you are frustrated and disappointed.”
It was Celtic’s 23rd defeat in 25 away games in the group stage of the Champions League and once again they will look to their home form to make any impact on the tournament. Their next game is against Manchester City at Celtic Park on 28 September.
“The home games are always going to be important for us,” said Rodgers. “Away from home, it’s been difficult for Celtic over many years. The advantage we have is our supporters who genuinely create that extra man for us and put an intensity into the game.
“In the home games, we need to press and look to do well. But tonight, the better and top class team won.”