_
_
_
_
_

Barça record in peril at Celtic

Scottish champion beat La Liga champion at home last year in group stages

Celtic's manager Neil Lennon (l) joins in the celebration of the winning goal against Shakhter Karagandy during their Champions League playoff round second leg at Celtic Park.
Celtic's manager Neil Lennon (l) joins in the celebration of the winning goal against Shakhter Karagandy during their Champions League playoff round second leg at Celtic Park. RUSSELL CHEYNE (REUTERS)

As Barcelona can attest, there are no free points in the Champions League. Glasgow Celtic is a regular participant due mainly to a dearth of competition in the SPL, but it rarely graces the latter stages of the competition. It did, though, last season on the basis of its home form. At Celtic Park, Benfica drew a blank and both Spartak Moscow and Barcelona were beaten. Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino takes his side to Scotland on Tuesday on the back of its best-ever start to a campaign — but the ability of the home side to derail that record should not be underestimated.

Chief among Barça's pre-match problems is the absence of Leo Messi, who limped off the field at Almería on Saturday with a hamstring injury. Without his virtually guaranteed goals, the visitor may struggle to break down a resolute defense, while Neil Lennon's side has returning Scotland winger James Forrest and Israeli international playmaker Beram Kayal in contention for a return to action.

The European midweek action should provide some respite for Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who oversaw the club's first Liga defeat to Atlético since 1999 on Saturday and openly admitted that he felt his side could "only score from a cross" to justify the unpopular substitution of Isco for Álvaro Morata in the second half. Considering the attacking talent Madrid boasts, and the amount of money it cost to assemble, it should be of some concern that in its last four matches the team's goals have come from free-kicks, penalties and punts into the box.

So the visit of FC Copenhagen is a welcome distraction and will provide the Italian with a chance to tinker with his stumbling line-up. Ancelotti must ensure a performance of the caliber that destroyed Galatasaray two weeks ago, rather than a repeat of the derby or last week's fortunate escape at Elche.

Atlético travels to Porto in a match that presents a chance for one or the other to pull clear in Group G, while Real Sociedad faces Bayer Leverkusen in an equally weighty encounter, the Basques having been beaten at home by Shakhtar Donetsk in the opening round.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_