Celtic fans right to believe we can beat Barcelona, says manager Brendan Rodgers
The Hoops don’t fear their highly fancied Champions League opponent despite a 7-0 loss two months ago
Brendan Rodgers says it’s a sign of how far Celtic have progressed this season that the club’s supporters believe they can defeat Barcelona.
It is a belief that would have seemed preposterous just two months ago when they watched their side trudge off the pitch at the Nou Camp after suffering a 7-0 mauling at the hands of the Catalan giants.
However, positivity abounds at Celtic Park thanks in large to an undefeated start to their Scottish Premiership title defence and a place in the League Cup final, which has given them an air of invincibility domestically.
Improvements in Europe have followed with solid performances in their surprise 3-3 draw with Manchester City and a 1-1 draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach, although these results sandwiched a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to the Germans.
Celtic’s Champions League ambitions are all but gone with the Parkhead club sitting bottom of group C with two points from their four matches.
However, they retain hopes of clinching third spot and a place in the Europa League which would guarantee European football beyond Christmas.
To achieve this they will need a repeat of Barcelona’s visit to Parkhead in October 2012 when the Glasgow giants secured a shock 2-1 win over the Spanish champions.
And former Liverpool boss Rodgers says his side will need to show their teeth if they are to have a chance of emulating that remarkable result.
“Barca have experienced it before, they know it’s tough,” the Celtic boss said.
“But hopefully what we have created here in a short period of time is that we are a team that’s not going to wait for opponents.
“We have to be aggressive. We know they are some of the top players ever, but we have to get up to them and see how they cope when you are right at them.
— Celtic Football Club (@celticfc) November 21, 2016
“It is great that we feel that we can win. It’s a mark of where the club’s going.”
Despite the thumping suffering by his side in Spain, Celtic forward Scott Sinclair says the Hoops won’t fear Barcelona.
“There’s no apprehension. We’ve learned a lot from that game,” the former Manchester City player said.
“Even when we went away to Monchengladbach we showed the difference when we conceded. We lost the game at home but we went there and drew.
“I think we’ve learned a lot and hopefully now we’re going in with a positive mindset.”
However, the Hoops will face a Barcelona side who also have a point to prove. Luis Enrique’s side, the tournament favourites for many, arrive in Glasgow on the back of a goalless draw against mid-table Malaga – the first time they have failed to score at the Nou Camp since February 2015.
The Catalan giants have dropped points in four of their 12 matches in La Liga this season to record their worst start to a campaign since 2004.
Despite this, Barca remain in second place just four points off old rivals Real Madrid and top group C with nine points from their four matches.
Celtic will also be facing a full-strength Barca, who rested several players for the match against Malaga and were without the suspended Luis Suarez and Leo Messi due to illness.
In all the matches that Barcelona have dropped points this season Messi has not featured or lasted the full 90 minutes.
Enrique would have been bolstered by his return to training on Monday and the Argentine maestro is expected to take his place in Barca’s formidable forward line alongside Suarez and Neymar.
Andres Iniesta and Samuel Umtiti remain the only absentees for the trip to Glasgow through injury.