El Barça, que s'hagués classificat com a primer de grup amb una victòria, cedeix la segona derrota del curs a Glasgow

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
FC Barcelona, who would have qualified as group winners had they won tonight at Celtic Park, have instead lost for only the second time this season

The three points were a far bigger return than the hoops deserved from a bizarre game in which they scored with their only two serious attempts on goal

Messi narrowed the gap in injury time, but this time it was too late for miracles

Barça have surrendered at Celtic Park only their second defeat of the season, and the first in the Champions League. The Scots can feel very fortunate to have survived the Barça onslaught and come out of this with a win, having only made only two attempts on goal while Barça dominated the possession from start to finish and hit the woodwork twice.

Barça’s first away defeat in the group stage of the Champions League since 2006 doesn’t affect their leadership of Group G or seriously endanger their chances of making it into the last sixteen. But they will be frustrated not to have taken this opportunity to ensure passage as group winners, and instead will have to go Moscow in search of what they were unable to achieve in Glasgow.

One corner is enough

The first half developed exactly as most pundits had expected. FC Barcelona had almost all of the possession and were in total command of the midfield, while Celtic were content to sit back and defend en masse and look for openings on the counter attack. These were few and far between, and as if they had already scored half a goal, Celtic Park erupted when the green and whites got their first corner. But the famously vociferous home supporters had reason to feel optimistic. Wanyama was waiting at the far post, had Alba well beaten in the air, and Paradise erupted in jubilation

Cheated by the woodwork

The setback did nothing to disrupt the Barça game-plan. Tito Vilanova’s charges continued their siege of the goal defended by Forster and a nine-man guard strategically placed around the area. Playing their typically patient waiting game, Barça didn’t panic and the chances started coming. The two clearest, which fell to Messi and Alexis, both struck the woodwork, and the Catalans were still a goal down at the break.

Watt doubles home advantage

The second half brought more of the same. FC Barcelona had Celtic completely pinned back in their own half, where the Scots defended with such extraordinary defiance that for 45 minutes Barcelona barely managed a shot on goal. And when they did come, home keeper Forster was on hand to display the very best of his remarkable reflexes. Having lapped up the pressure for most of the half, Celtic suddenly found new life, and would have made it two had Bartra not brilliantly made up from an earlier error to deny Mulgrew.

But the home side were more fortunate moments later when a long clearance following a Messi free kick was collected by Watt, who showed tremendous composure in placing the ball beyond Valdés. Unbelievably, Celtic were 2-0 up.

Too late from Messi

Barça have starred in some amazing historic comebacks of late, and once again didn’t give hope. With the game already into injury time, Messi showed brilliant opportunism to pounce on a loose ball in the Celtic area and pull one back for the visitors. The final seconds saw Barça throwing everything they had into attack as they searched for an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, despite the defeat, Barça remain strongly poised for a place in the second round, where judging by what we saw tonight, Celtic could well be joining them.

Celtic-Barça: Did you know…

Messi scored two goals in his last vitist to Celtic Park / PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB
Barça will face off against Celtic FC at Celtic Park this evening in the Champions League group stage. Barça could clinch qualification to the next round if they are able to defeat the Scottish side

– FC Barcelona have played away to Celtic FC three times. Barça lost its first match at Celtic Park in 2003/04 (1-0) and won the following two, in 2004/05 (1-3) and 2007/08 (2-3).

– Of their last 25 away matches in the Champions League, the Blaugrana have won 12 and lost 3.

Tito Vilanova’s FC Barcelona hope to equal the record set by Louis van Gaal for the best start to a season in Club history. The team managed by the Dutchman won all six of its group stage matches.

– After Juventus and PSG lost this weekend, FC Barcelona are the only league leaders of the big European leagues that have yet to lose a match.

Gerard Piqué, who has been named to the team for tonight’s match, hasn’t played a game for Barça since Week 1 of the Champions League, against Spartak Moscow (3-2). He picked up an injury against the Russian side that has kept him from competitive play for two months.

Leo Messi, with 73 goals, is only two goals adrift of the record of goals scored in a calendar year set in 1958 by the legendary Brazilian, Pelé.

– In the 2007/08 season, Barça’s Argentinean scored a brace at Celtic Park (2-3).

– The last time Celtic FC lost in European play was to Atlético Madrid. The Sots lost 0-1 last season in the group stage of the Europa League.

– Celtic FC’s record at home against Spanish clubs stands at six victories, two draws and four defeats. Of the four defeats, two of them came at the hands of the Blaugrana.

– This century, only Hearts, Rangers and Aberdeen have been able to claim victory more times at Celtic Park than Barça.

– The English keeper for Celtic, Fraser Forster, was called up to the English national side in October. He’s the first Celtic player called up to the national side since Alan Thompson, who was named to the national team eight years ago.

– The referee for the match is the Dutchman Björn Kuipers. He officiated the return leg of the quarter finals last season between Barça and Milan (3-1). He also officiated the Stuttgart-Barça knock-out round match in 2009/10 (1-1) and the Barça-Kiev group stage qualification match (2-0). He has never officiated a Celtic FC match.

Henrik Larsson’s heart divided

Heinrik Larrson / PHOTO: FCB
The striker’s heart will be divided for this evening’s Champions League game between Celtic FC and Barça. He has fond memories of both clubs

“Messi will win the Ballon d’Or” predicts the former Swedish international, who also feels that Xavi Hernández “is the soul of the team”

“A draw would be best.” In the first leg “Celtic defended very well … but Barça dominated the ball like nobody”
“Xavi never makes a bad pass. He plays in a very difficult position and doesn’t score goals, but he’s the key to it all”

A legend at Celtic FC, where he played for seven seasons, Swedish striker Henrik Larsson also made a huge impact in his two seasons at Barça. The game tonight at Celtic Park is therefore a very special one for the man now coaching Swedish second division outfit Landskrona Bols.

He goes down in history as one of the finest centre forwards ever to play for the Glasgow giants. But he also left his mark on Barça including an unforgettable performance in the Champions League Final in Paris, where FC Barcelona lifted the European Cup trophy for the second time by beating Arsenal 2-1. His assists played a key role in the greatest moment of Frank Rijkaard’s managerial career.

Looking back, Larsson is hugely grateful to both Celtic and Barça, and asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper El País who he’d like to win this evening, he replied that “a draw would be best.” In the first leg “Celtic defended very well … but Barça dominated the ball like nobody”.

Larsson played for Barça alongside several of the current squad. He thus witnessed firsthand the arrival of young Leo Messi on the scene. “Even when he was just a kid he was excellent. He’s a phenomenon and I’ll always be able to tell my family that I played with him” said Larsson, who is also convinced that the Argentinian will win the Ballon d’Or yet again this year. He added that “Xavi is the soul of Barça … He never makes a bad pass. He plays in a very difficult position and doesn’t score goals, but he’s the key to it all”.

 

Second FCB Escola campus begins in Turkey

120 children aged between 9 and 14 years will be enjoying the Barça experience at FCB AVEA Camp Antalya 2012
The second FCB Escola campus in Turkey, financed and sponsored by Turkish telecommunications company AVEA, an official partner of FCB in Turkey, runs from November 12 to 16

Next November 12 to 16, the FCB Escola will be holding its second campus in Turkey. 120 children aged between 9 and 14 years will be enjoying the Barça experience at FCB AVEA Camp Antalya 2012. Financed and sponsored by AVEA, the telecommunications company that partners FC Barcelona in Turkey, the young players will not only be learning to play football, but also to share the Barça values. Such concepts as solidarity, friendship, community spirit and integration will be included in the sessions run by coaches Josep Moratalla, Isaac Guerrero and Marc Velasco.

This will be the second FCB Escola camp in Turkey after the first was held last July with more than one children at the FCB Camp in Istanbul. The participants, selected from among 4,500 children in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Van, showed a strong level and the FCB Escola featured prominently.
FCB Escola, thanks to its partner AVEA, is running a highly ambitious training programme in the country involving a high numbers of fans and supporters of FC Barcelona.

 

Celtic FC – FC Barcelona. Mission: Last 16

Iniesta, durant el partit jugat al Camp Nou / FOTO: ARXIU FCB
20.45, Canal +. The team managed by Tito Vilanova hope to clinch qualification to the next round of the Champions League against Celtic FC on Week 4 of European group play

Gerard Piqué, who travelled to Scotland, could make his return to competitive play

Celtic will receive FC Barcelona with a massive mosaic in commemoration of the Scottish team’s 125-year history

FC Barcelona will look to clinch qualification to the Round of 16 this evening in Glasgow. The team led by Tito Vilanova know that a victory against Celtic would mathematically secure the top spot in the group if Spartak doesn’t defeat Benfica in the other Group G match. If Barça edge Celtic this evening, the Blaugrana can afford to approach their remaining two group matches with the peace of mind that a Round of 16 berth has already been secured.

Without Busquets, with Piqué

Vilanova must devise an experimental defensive line-up against Celtic seeing that many of the manager’s full backs aren’t available due to injury. Puyol, Abidal, Muniesa and Adriano have all been ruled out for tonight’s clash, but Gerard Piqué, who hasn’t featured for Barça since Week 1 of the Group Stage – almost two months –, might make his return. Busquets, who is suspended for the match, will also be absent, which means that Alex Song will likely feature in the holding midfielder position against Celtic this evening.

Celtic celebrates 125-year history

The Scottish supporters will receive the two teams with a massive mosaic commemorating Celtic FC’s 125-year anniversary. The home side will look to consolidate the second position of the group, a position currently threatened by Spartak Moscow. It’s worth noting that two weeks ago the team led by Neil Lennon very nearly secured a point from the match at the Camp Nou (2-1). Without a doubt, tonight’s match will prove difficult for the Blaugrana, but the reward is a spot in the Round of 16.