Outrageous results, and a 4-5 win is an outrageous result, could be seen as reason for encouragement by future opponents, but Barcelona played the majority of the game against Deportivo with 10 men, scored an own goal, conceded from a penalty and their keeper made a mistake for another, yet they still scored five goals and won the game.
That is formidable form.
On Tuesday evening Celtic face one of the greatest teams in history but there is reason for confidence. We have been to the Camp Nou three times in the last decade, a 0-0 draw in 2004 was enough to eliminate the Catalans from Europe. Later in 2004 we recorded our only away point in the Champions League, prior to beating Spartak Moscow in the last game, and we lost there to a single goal four years later.
Each Barcelona side was vastly more talented but they found each Celtic team a handful.
Any team which takes a point or more from Barca this season will have to man the barricades for long stretches of each game, will have to show enormous concentration and discipline, and take whatever luck is going. If Celtic do this, they will have one inherent advantage over the home team on Tuesday.
There will be changes in the starting 11 for both teams but a cursory look at yesterday’s starting line ups is educational. Eight out of Barca’s 10 outfield players were under six foot, six of them (Jordi Alba, Iniesta, Mascherano, Messi, Montoya and Villa) three or four inches below. Celtic’s smallest player, Gary Hooper, is only two inches below.
Seven Celts were six foot or higher. Ambrose, Wilson and Mulgrew are all 6’3”, taller than anyone in the Barca team, while non-starters, Lustig and Samaras, are 6’3” and 6’4” respectively. Celtic’s outfield players were, on average, more than three inches taller than their Barcelona counterparts.
Even the Barcelona keeper, Valdes, at 6’0”, is a bit on the short side, seven inches below Fraser Forster.
Height doesn’t make you a better player, or collectively, a better team, but it does instil an enormous advantage at set pieces. Celtic must defend when necessary but any free kick inside the Barcelona half is an opportunity to drop a ball onto an elevated Celtic head inside the box.
Play to your strengths, Celtic. Keep strategy simple, and your probability of taking something on Tuesday will increase significantly. You have everything to play for.
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