CELTIC have been told how to beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp tonight – by the manager of newly-promoted Alaves who stunned the Spanish superstars 2-1 at the weekend.
Manager Mauricio Pellegrino was the mastermind behind the shock result and he detailed how his side pulled it off.
The former Liverpool assistant boss only joined the club in the summer, but, after an overhaul of his squad, he has already overseen draws with Atletico Madrid and Sporting Gijon as well as Saturday’s remarkable success.
Pellegrino spent the days leading up to his team’s trip to the Nou Camp stressing the importance of discipline, hard work and belief to his players.
He said: “To play against Barcelona is not easy work. The most difficult thing is to convince the players that we would have our chance. We can see Barcelona winning a lot of games 5-0 or 6-0 and for the confidence of the players we had to convince them we’d have our moment.
“The main thing for me is to translate to them our thinking, our idea and the players were working really, really hard.”
Utilising a 5-4-1 formation, Alaves denied Barcelona space on the flanks and through the middle of the pitch. Luis Enrique’s side could conjure up just two shots on target in 90 minutes.
Pellegrino said: “When I was a player in Barcelona, I was thinking always that Barcelona were 25 years playing in a way to play against 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 but against a team that play five players in defence there were really big problems.
“When I was a player I remember the Valencia of Claudio Ranieri or, later, Club Estudiantes de La Plata (in the final of the 2009 Club World Cup) when they had some problems working in that way.
“For me, the most difficult thing is to protect the line between the defence and the midfield, behind the midfielder, beside the midfielder, behind the full-back and the space of the corridor between the full-back and centre-back.
“We were working really hard because they are quicker, better technically and physically. The difficulty is to do this job for 90 minutes. They did get the goal from a corner and that’s something we have to improve for the next game. But at the end, we had our moment.
“Okay, we were lucky in some moments. If we think about the last chance for Lionel Messi and Mathieu – but in defence we were more or less correctly set up and in attack we had some effectiveness.
“It’s not just about good luck. It’s about the hard work of our players.”
Brendan Rodgers, of course, will have his own ideas about how to approach tonight’s Champions League group-stage opener, but, at least, little Alaves, who were among the favourites for relegation at the start of the campaign, proved Messi and Co are not unbeatable on their own turf.