Celtic gear up for Barca clash

NEARLY MEN::The Hoops earned plaudits for their performance in a last-gasp 2-1 loss at Camp Nou two weeks ago, when Jordi Alba grabbed a stoppage time winner

AFP, GLASGOW, Scotland

Wed, Nov 07, 2012 - Page 19

Celtic host Barcelona in a glamor Champions League tie at Parkhead today with both sides carrying lengthy injury lists.

Barcelona could seal their spot in the last 16 of the competition if they can claim victory against the Hoops in the second part of their Group G doubleheader.

The Catalan giants arrive in Glasgow at the top of La Liga after a club-record start of nine wins and a draw in their first 10 matches and lead the pool by five points from Celtic with three wins out of three in Europe’s elite club competition.

However, they are facing a defensive crisis with Adriano the latest to join an ever-growing injury list after he hobbled out of their 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

The Brazilian defender hurt a muscle in his right leg after scoring the opening goal and will be sidelined for three weeks, dealing another blow to an already thin back-line.

Adriano joins Barca captain Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Thiago Alcantara on the club’s list of injured defenders.

However, one player who may yet feature is Spanish international Gerard Pique who has not played since suffering a foot injury against Spartak Moscow in September.

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will monitor his progress in training and is hopeful he can play a part against the Scottish champions.

If not, he will have to again shuffle his squad to fill his rearguard with Javier Mascherano, Alex Song and 21-year-old Marc Bartra likely to feature, while holding midfielder Sergio Busquets is suspended.

Better news for Barca, however, was that Lionel Messi has been passed fit to play after an injury scare in the win over Celta Vigo.

The world player of the year sank to the turf clutching his knee during the game after earlier being given the all-clear to play after his girlfriend gave birth to his first child just before the match.

However, Vilanova was quick to calm any concerns after the match.

“Messi is fine. After speaking to our doctor, I can tell you he has only suffered a blow on his knee,” the Barcelona coach said. “At first, we were concerned he had twisted his knee, but it was only a knock.”

Hosts Celtic are also facing an injury crisis with several top stars struggling to regain fitness for the match.

The Hoops earned plaudits for their performance in a last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou two weeks ago, when Jordi Alba grabbed a stoppage time winner.

Neil Lennon’s side suffered a shock on Sunday when Dundee United came from 2-0 down to seal a 2-2 draw at Tannadice.

Emilio Izaguirre and Thomas Rogne limped out that match and join James Forrest, Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras on the sidelines.

The Celtic manager hopes to have Hooper and Samaras back in contention for the Barca match.

However, teenage striker Tony Watt has tipped strike partner Miku to help Celtic gun down Barcelona.

Venezuelan hitman Miku, who netted 12 goals for Getafe in La Liga last season, scored his first for the Scottish champions in the 2-2 draw and Watt, who set up the first goal and scored the other, believes his new teammate can do a job against the Catalan giants.

“We have got a big squad at Celtic and everybody in it is a quality player. Hopefully, we can do as well as we can against Barcelona,” Watt said. “Miku certainly showed everybody what he was all about [on Sunday]. He came on, was very lively and scored a great goal. I was happy for him when he got his goal.”

“He is a quality player and he is going to show that with goals now,” Watt said. “The best is still to come from him. He knows what playing against Barcelona is all about. Hopefully he does well against them if he plays.”

“We can’t afford to switch off against Barcelona. We need to work hard for the 90 minutes, or 94 minutes if there is added time, and see what happens,” he said.