Brendan Rodgers has urged his players to disregard notions of a “nothing to lose’”mentality in the Nou Camp tonight and prove they are not simply makeweights in the Champions League this season.
The Celtic manager believes no-one affords his team “a cat in hell’s chance” of taking anything from their opening Group C fixture against Barcelona.
But he is demanding an ambitious approach to a game from which he feels even a 0-0 draw would earn his players as much kudos as they received for their 5-1 victory over Rangers on Saturday.
“We are not tourists, we are here to do well,” said Rodgers of Celtic’s return to the group stage of European football’s elite tournament for the first time in three years, which will also see them face Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.
“We’ve said to the players, we will enjoy it, but it’s a football game. You are at the Nou Camp, it’s great and take it in, but we have earned the right to be in the Champions League.
“That’s the beauty of this game. You win 5-1 against Rangers, then come here and can win a game 1-0 or draw 0-0 and be held in the same esteem.
“There are not many chances you get to do that as a footballer. I’m imposing that on to the players.
“I don’t think anyone gives us a cat in hell’s chance of doing anything, and I respect that and understand that totally. If you look at the powers of the three other teams in our group and the experiences and the finances, we shouldn’t really be on the same pitch as them.
“That’s the brutal honesty of it. But that’s not how football works. Celtic is a huge club. We don’t have the resources of others in this competition and at this level but it shouldn’t stop us believing that we can get a result.
“I think in this stadium here, if you can keep the score at 0-0 for 15 or 20 minutes there is an anxiety that can appear, because of the level of what they are used to seeing and goalscoring.
“So if you can get over that first phase of the game you can have a big chance. But of course it’s easier said than done. Barcelona test you physically and move you around the pitch but we are here to try and get a result, that’s the message.”
Celtic captain Scott Brown trained at the Nou Camp last night and will be fit to lead the Scottish champions after limping out of Saturday’s Old Firm rout in the latter stages. It has been a sharp turnaround for Rodgers and his players since then in terms of recovery and travelling.
“It’s not ideal,” he added. “Most of our work is done outside the field, which is a shame for a game like this, because you can’t physically work on anything on-field. So you’re doing talks in little groups and your video analysis. But that’s how it works sometimes. It can never be perfect. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just try to get the job done and if you can get it done, whichever way you do it to get the result, we can accept that.
“It’s not a free game for me. We want to get a result. We understand the difficulty of getting a result here, especially off the back of the intensity of the Rangers game. But we are not here just to be passengers.
“If you want that easy-oasy life, this is not the place to be. Make no mistake, we will do everything we can against a real crack team to try and get a result.”