22nd October 2012
Celtic face the ultimate test in their attempt to establish themselves as true European giants, with the Bhoys hoping to continue the impressive run of results at Camp Nou. Mighty Barcelona are clearly hot favourites to win this match, but their defensive crisis could give Celtic an additional boost to try and get something from this game.
Many football pundits were shocked to see inexperienced Tito Vilanova get a chance to replace Pep Guardiola at the end of last season, but this quickly proved to be a spot on decision by club chiefs. While the Catalans have experienced far too many problems at the start of the new season, they somehow managed to keep the results respectable and have now won all but two games against Real Madrid. The problem is that the team are leaking way too many goals at the moment, exactly 8 in last 4 games, but that is hardly surprising when we know that Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves are all sidelined through injury. Having conceded two goals in their last Champions League game at Camp Nou, and another four at the weekend in La Coruna, the Catalans could find it hard to keep a clean sheet against in-form Celtic. The aforementioned trio of defenders continues to miss out, whereas Sergio Busquets is suspended.
While Celtic Park was always considered a difficult ground to play at even for Europe’s top sides, the Bhoys would usually struggle to bring any points from European travels. Celtic looked to be showing some improvement in that aspect when they beat Dinamo Moscow away last season, but it was this term that they finally broke the curse. While everyone were quick to downplay away wins over Helsinki and Helsingborg in Champions League qualifiers, the doubters had no choice but to congratulate the Bhoys for an impressive 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow that saw them make a giant step towards the knockout stages. With Neil Lennon’s side brimming with confidence after six straight wins and several important players back to the side, Celtic look like they can cause mighty Barcelona a few worries on Tuesday night. Georgios Samaras, Scott Brown, Kris Commons and James Forrest have all made the trip to Spain after recovering from injury, which leaves Lassad Nouioui and Dylan McGeouch the only unavailable players.
Despite the serious problems at the back, Barcelona remain odds-on favourites to win this clash, but with Celtic high on confidence at the moment and looking to hit the hosts on the break, I am tempted to back the Bhoys to score at Camp Nou. The odds on this market are simply excellent, which makes it a great value bet.
Verdict: Celtic to score
Best Odds: 3/2
Bookmaker: Stan James