Celtic v Barcelona: Neil Lennon wary of ‘spanking’

Forster will be key against improved Catalans, admits Celtic manager. Picture: SNS

Forster will be key against improved Catalans, admits Celtic manager. Picture: SNS

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NEIL LENNON has admitted a heavy defeat is a possibility when Celtic host Barcelona on Tuesday night.

He said: “Us getting a spanking? Yes, that goes through my mind 100 per cent.”

The Celtic manager identified goalkeeper Fraser Forster as crucial to avoiding such a scenario in the Champions League Group H encounter, just as the Englishman was instrumental in the shock 2-1 win over Barca last season.

Lennon added: “He made some big saves in the game last year, like the one he tipped over from [Lionel] Messi. He made some great saves in the Nou Camp as well.

“If we go a goal down, can we stay in the game and force them into making a mistake? What you don’t want is a spanking and they will come aiming to rectify what went on last year so yes, I’m very mindful of that as well.” Lennon acknowledges that under new coach Gerardo Martino and with Neymar in their ranks, Barcelona are probably in better form than the last time they came to Glasgow.

“Probably they are better,” he said. “They’re unbeaten this season again. Although they beat Ajax 4-0 the scoreline flattered them. Ajax were in the game for a long period, which gives us some sort of encouragement.

“Most people will think that we can’t do it, that lightning won’t strike twice but I have to believe that we can get something out of the game, especially at home. I think Scott Brown is playing very well just now, as is [Virgil] van Dijk and [Efe] Ambrose. Adam Matthews has had a great start to the season, too.”

While Barca were beating Ajax at the Nou Camp, Celtic were unlucky to go down 2-0 away to AC Milan and Lennon added: “I was really pleased with the performance in Milan. They were not fazed by it all. But Barcelona are a different animal.

“I know I have lost [Victor] Wanyama and [Gary] Hooper and that no teams works you like Barcelona do but, with van Dijk and Brown being fit this time, and I am hoping that [James] Forrest will be fit for Tuesday, that will give us something extra in terms of pace in wide areas. I think we will be okay, I think we will give them a game.”

Lennon won’t be fretting unduly, however, as he sees the game as very much a shot to nothing. “I don’t feel any pressure going into this game, I can go out and enjoy it

“But I don’t want to end up getting well beaten and it affecting the confidence of not just the team but the club. So we have to find a way of containing them and maximising the opportunities we get.”

Lionel Messi scored before being substituted due to injury to help Barcelona win 2-0 at Almeria last night and set a club record with a seventh-straight victory to start the Spanish league. Messi netted his league-leading eighth goal to open in the 21st minute but he asked to be replaced eight minutes later after hurting a muscle in his right leg.

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