Efe Ambrose adamant Celtic will humble Barcelona

EFE AMBROSE has bullishly predicted that history will repeat itself for Celtic tomorrow night with another home victory over Barcelona in the Champions League.
Amido Balde celebrates with the crowd after scoring his first goal for Celtic on Saturday. Picture: Robert PerryAmido Balde celebrates with the crowd after scoring his first goal for Celtic on Saturday. Picture: Robert Perry
Amido Balde celebrates with the crowd after scoring his first goal for Celtic on Saturday. Picture: Robert Perry

The Nigerian defender was one of the heroes for Neil Lennon’s side last season when they upset the odds to defeat the star-laden Catalan club 2-1 at Celtic Park, a result which paved the way for their qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.

The teams meet again in Glasgow tomorrow, with Celtic in need of a positive result after losing their opening Champions League Group H fixture 2-0 to AC Milan in Italy two weeks ago.

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Ambrose, who played in both of the group games against Barcelona last season, believes the Spanish champions will be firmly focused on avenging their shock loss at Parkhead. But he is adamant Celtic are going to send them home pointless once more.

“We will do it again,” said Ambrose. “Everything is possible in football. It is just over 90 minutes and we believe that we can do it again.

“We know it will be even more difficult and dangerous for us this time, because it will be like payback for them. A year ago, beating them was unbelievable – so few people imagined that we could beat them. I believe this time Barcelona will be coming full force to Celtic Park to get something.

“But, at the same time, we are also going to step it up. We know all eyes are on us to see if our victory last year was some kind of fluke or just down to luck.

“We have to prove that we can do it again at Celtic Park. We are not just playing for ourselves, we are playing for 60,000 fans who are the best in the world.

“Beating them last season was one of the best results in my career. It put us into the European limelight. It puts us onto the highest stage and we’ve been in full view of Europe since then. This game changed everything about how some people looked at Celtic.”

Celtic manager Neil Lennon handed each of his players a DVD of last November’s 2-1 victory to watch over the weekend as a reminder of what it will take to claim all three points against opponents widely regarded as the finest club team in the world.

For Ambrose, absorbing footage of Barcelona is a regular pastime. The 24-year-old revealed he takes every possible opportunity to watch them in action on TV as he looks to further his own footballing education.

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“Every day I watch Barcelona, so I knew all about them even before we played them last season,” added Ambrose. “I watch them to make me better.

“When you do, you are learning from people who are better and more experienced than you in many departments, so I watch it to make myself improve. I just have to do that to be better than I was last season and improve on any mistakes I made.

“Knowing what Barcelona do and stopping them from doing it is two different things, so we’ll have to step up and take on board what the management says to us. Tactically, things will depend on how the manager wants us to play.

“We have to play to his tactical discipline and that has been the key for us in the past. Also, playing like a team.”

Lionel Messi won’t be involved at Celtic Park after the Argentine superstar suffered a hamstring strain while scoring in Barcelona’s 2-0 league win at Almeria on Saturday night, but Ambrose insists he and his team-mates cannot afford to focus on individuals.

“It’s not just about facing Messi, it’s facing Barcelona,” he said. “You can’t pick one player from their squad and say he is not dangerous. They all are. We have to look at stopping Barcelona, not Messi, Xavi, Neymar or anyone else.

“I would say they are a different team from last season, with a different coach, different tactics and a different system. For example, they don’t press the ball as high up the pitch as they did. They play more to instruction and more tactically now.

“But they are coming to Celtic Park with all of the noise and it is not going to be an easy task for them. They know that.”

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Ambrose believes Celtic’s confidence will be high tomorrow night on the back of Saturday’s 5-2 Premiership win at Kilmarnock where Georgios Samaras, their European talisman in recent seasons, scored a hat-trick.

“I think that result will boost our morale and improve us ahead of Barcelona,” he added. “We have to win every game in the domestic league and getting another victory is the best way to prepare for what is ahead of us in Europe.

“Doing well in Scotland is the starting point for everything else. We will now wait and see what the manager decides to do for Barcelona, his tactics and his plans. We will try and put everything he says into practice.

“Georgios played very well, scoring a hat-trick and putting in that kind of performance. It shows that he is up to his peak again and that is a great thing for our squad.

“He has been battling against injuries for a couple of weeks but, after this display, you can see he is fully fit and back to his best. He will be a big help to us against Barcelona.”