It’s a Champions League night and although we’re looking forward to it, the members of the Celtic defence may not be so cheery. Neil Lennon’s men are in the Camp Nou to take on the best team in the world and one of the best teams in the history of the game. No pressure then. Barcelona are the hosts and the odds are stacked against the Bhoys. If Chelsea’s semi-final victory was a miracle, this is one of Billy Bob Thornton getting Angelina Jolie proportions.
I’ll be here for the evening to keep you up to date with how Celtic’s parking the bus is going. I’ll bring you all the latest news and some random thoughts. If you want to contribute, feel free using the comments section below.
BARCELONA 2 – 1 CELTIC >>> BET NOW
9.37pm: FULL TIME! The game restarts, but the referee blows it up seconds later. Heartbreak for Celtic who rode their luck at times, but would have merited a point for their spirited and sensible performance. It’s tough on them, but they can take heart from the performance, if not any points.
9.36pm: GOAL! BARCA! It’s an absolute sickener for Celtic. 30 seconds from the end of stoppage time, the Catalans grab the winner. Jordi Alba gets one of the scrappier goals you’ll see from a Barcelona team. The Celtic players are devastated.
9.32pm: POST! Villa hits the post with a stinging shot from the edge of the box! There will be four minutes of added time for Celtic fans to bite their nails through.
9.30pm: 72% possession for Barca to Celtic’s 28% . Impressive stat, but Celtic are well worth a point if they can hang on.
9.24pm: Chance for Barcelona and a bizarrely Crazy Gang one. They cross the ball looking for the head of Alex Song, but Wanyama beats him to it for the expense of a corner that Messi wastes like a Sunday League hoofer.
9.21pm: YELLOW CARD AND SUB! Adriano gets rightly booked and David Villa makes his entrance in place of Alexis Sanchez.
9.17pm: SUBS! Barca take Pedro off and Christian Tello replaces him. Celtic withdraw Mulgrew and bring on Beram Kayal.
9.17pm: Forster had a quieter than expected first half, but he’s earning his crust now. He makes a brilliant save from a Messi header. A great few minutes for the Englishman.
9.15pm: Another good save from Forster. Barca work an opening for Alba, but the Celtic keeper is out quickly to get a body part in the way. I’m not totally sure which body part.
9.10pm: Brilliant save from Forster! He gets a hand to a close range effort from Messi. He was going the wrong way and the Argentine was about five yards out from goal. Super stuff.
9.08pm: Iniesta has a shot that Forster grabs on to.
9.07pm: Messi tests Forster with a low shot. It’s not a very hard test however and the big goalie gathers it comfortably.
9.05pm: SUB! Celtic make their second change of the night. Scott Brown goes off and Kris Commons goes off. A promising counter attack from the Bhoys peters out.
9.01pm: IMPORTANT UPDATE!
There was some confusion about how bets would be settled for the first goal of tonight’s game. Some sources give it to Samaras, others call it an own goal.
Just because we’re nice guys desperately seeking your approval, we’re covering all the bases. We’re paying out on Samaras as 1st Goalscorer as well as the Own Goal. On top of that, we’re also paying out on Andres Iniesta as first goalscorer because as per our rules, if the first goal is an own goal, it doesn’t count for the 1st Goalscorer market. That may not make too much sense to you, but in short, it’s the nice thing to do.
8.58pm: Adriano has a long range shot that curls nicely into Forster’s hands. It’s been a far more open and even second half so far.
8.55pm: Another set piece and another example of Barca’s defence looking as solid as a Tom Cruise marriage. Wanyama’s header from a Mulgrew corner goes narrowly wide.
8.51pm: After some resolute and dogged defending from Celtic, James Forrest wins a free kick just outside the Barcelona box. Charlie Mulgrew tries a shot on goal, but it’s as disappointing as The Hangover 2. The rebound breaks to Izaguirre but he skies it.
8.47pm: After Xavi ties his lace or makes a daisy chain – I can’t really tell – Barca kick off for the second half.
8.32pm: HALF TIME! Barcelona are looking dangerous, but Celtic are more than holding their own without resorting to flogging Lady Luck to death. It’s been a good, disciplined performance from Neil Lennon’s team. As they go in for their half-time cuppa, the Bhoys are 16/1 to snatch a famous win and just 9/2 to snatch a marginally less famous draw.
8.30pm: GOAL! BARCELONA! They make it look so easy when they’re in the mood. Barca carve open the visitors with some slick passing on the edge of the area. The ball comes to Iniesta about ten yards out and he slides a low shot to the left of Forster.
8.28pm: SUB! Samaras goes off injured amd James Forrest take his, place.
8.26pm: Celtic float another ball into the Barca box and not for the first time, the hosts handle it with all the confidence of a virgin taking on Jordan.
8.22pm: Messi has another good effort from a free-kick go just over. Celtic won’t want to give him too many more chances because – like a polar bear on an ever-shrinking glacier – he’s getting warmer.
8.20pm: Neil Lennon is barking orders and making wild hand gestures to his team from the sideline. Juding by the body language, he’s telling them to make better use of the ball when they do get it. Or else giving instructions on how to make a good basil pesto relish.
8.17pm: Barca are still happy enough to continue with the patient build-ups. Xavi has a shot that’s deflected for a corner and Adriano has a half decent shot saved by Forster. ‘No goalkeeper should be getting beaten from there’ says the commentator like a man who hasn’t seen too much of Victor Valdes lately.
8.13pm: A quick corner from Barcelona catches the Celtic defence playing musical statues. Bartra can’t direct his free header from about seven yards out on target.
8.10pm: As Barcelona press, the commendably brave 4-4-1-1 formation Celtic used earlier has reverted to a slightly less commendably brave 9-0-1 formation.
8.07pm: Messi puts a free-kick just over Forster’s crossbar, but the good news is people still like him more than Ronaldo.
8.05pm: Already Barca are looking more lively after a start in which they looked like slower than Roseanne Barr making for a salad. There’ll be more random 80s references later.
8.02pm: GOAL! CELTIC! THIS IS NOT A JOKE! The visitors take an unlikely lead. Charlie Mulgrew puts a dangerous ball into the Barca box. Samaras gets onto the end of it, but it was Javier Mascherano with the crucial touch to take it beyond Valdes. Incredible stuff and only slightly against the run of play.
8.01pm: Another chance for Barcelona. After a well worked corner, Forster is called into action to stop a header from Bartra.
7.58pm: Samaras picks up the ball for Celtic in a vaguely threatening position. Sadly for him, Adriano isn’t fooled by the old ‘trying to barge straight over him’ trick. That’s one from the Kevin Kilbane book of skills.
7.54pm: At times Barcelona look like they’re in ‘not particularly arsed’ testimonial mode, but in the blink of an eye, they up the pace and carve Celtic open. Messi gets the move started, but Sanchez can’t get on the end of the cross that’s to the attention of Izaguirre.
7.51pm: If quietening the home crowd is any sign of success – and it isn’t really – Celtic have made a decent start. The scoreline is a better sign of success and the Bhoys haven’t done too badly so far.
7.49pm: In fairness to Celtic, they aren’t trying out the 10-0-0 formation. It’s 4-4-1-1 and if they had the ball, they’d actually be nicely set up to attack.
7.46pm: Celtic’s first let off of the evening. Sanchez is played in by Messi, but from about ten yards out and just Forster to beat, he pulls a crap shot wide.
7.45pm: Celtic kick off and hold on to the ball for all of four seconds. It might be a while before they get it back.
7.44pm: Xavi hands Scott Brown a Barca pennant and clearly Brown forgot to pick up something for Barca in the duty free.
7.40pm: The teams are out on the pitch for the pre-match rigmarole. The hand-shaking is done and Celtic are still on level terms. Not a bad start.
7.36pm: Billy is getting his second run out of the evening. I wonder will Sky Sports give his football story a go before the evening’s out.
7.33pm: Charlie Nicholas’s spiky hair makes him look a lot like what a New Kid On The Block would look like these days.
7.26pm: Neil Lennon is keeping his cards close to his chest. In fact, to look at him, you’d think he’s put his cards through a paper shredder, set them on fire and now he’s denying that the cards ever existed. When pressed about his game plan for handling the awesome attacking prowess of Barcelona, he mumbles something about ‘focusing on our own game’ before shuffling off.
7.25pm: The Celtic players are on the pitch going through their warm-ups. The attacks are working on their sprints, the midfielders are practicing their passing and Fraser Forster is stretching out his back for an evening of picking the ball out of the net. Yeah, that’s harsh.
7.18pm: If Celtic are to get anything out of tonight’s game, they’ll need to stop Lionel Messi. Or at least make sure he’s not as super-mega-awesome as he can be. He’s already got 20 goals for club and country so far this season and here’s each of them. Best of luck, Celtic defence.
7.11pm: Andy Gray took time out of feeling really sorry for what he said a couple of years back to tell us how he thinks tonight’s games involving British teams will go.
It’s not good news for Celtic, because he’s tipping up a Barca 3-0 or Barca 4-0 win.
7.05pm: Billy Connolly is doing the voice-over on a Sky Sports piece about Celtic’s considerable history. I’d prefer some fart jokes, but this is good as well.
6.55pm: TEAM NEWS!
The team news is in and there is some hope for Celtic, mainly courtesy of Barca’s patched-up defence. They’re without several first choice options.
Valdes, Adriano, Bartra, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Song, Sanchez, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro
Neil Lennon has made four changes to the team that hockeyed St. Mirren at the weekend and the team is pretty much at full strength.
Forster, Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izaguirre, Ledley, Brown, Mulgrew, Wanyama, Samaras, Hooper