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UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona v Celtic

Barcelona host Celtic in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday knowing a point would see them crowned Group H winners.

The Spanish champions – who have already qualified for the round of 16 – currently sit two points clear of Milan at the top of the pool, although the Italians would move to the summit if they beat Ajax and Barca lose to the Neil Lennon’s side.

Celtic can no longer qualify for the knockout stages, and the four points that separate them from third-placed Ajax mean their hopes of reaching the UEFA Europa League have also disappeared.

And Barca head coach Gerardo Martino will be confident of claiming the necessary draw, with the Liga outfit having triumphed 2-1 over Celtic when the sides met at the Camp Nou last season.

They also emerged victorious from the reverse fixture earlier in this year’s competition, when Cesc Fabregas netted the only goal in a match that saw Scott Brown sent off for the hosts.

Barcelona are yet to drop a point at home in this season’s Champions League, while Celtic have lost both of their away fixtures.

However, the Catalans’ 20-game unbeaten start to the season in all competitions came to an end in their last European game at Ajax, and they have since lost their first domestic fixture of the campaign against Athletic Bilbao.

Celtic may have nothing to play for continentally, but are unbeaten in 17 Scottish Premiership fixtures and sit seven points clear of closest rivals Inverness at the top of the table.

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster will not welcome the sight of Barca’s Alexis Sanchez, who put two goals past the 25-year-old on his England debut against Chile last month.

Speaking of Celtic’s three matches against Barcelona over the past two seasons, manager Neil Lennon stressed that he wanted to see his players maintain their high standards.

“We have played very well against them over the three games,” he said. “I am just hoping we can continue that and it doesn’t just fade away in the last game.”

Lionel Messi (hamstring) and Victor Valdes (calf) are set to miss out for Barcelona, while Daniel Alves (calf) has not played since the 4-1 Liga win at Real Betis on November 10.

Celtic, meanwhile, will be without Beram Kayal (foot), Adam Matthews (collarbone) and Steven Mouyokolo (Achilles), but will welcome Brown and Nir Biton back from suspension. Emilio Izaguirre, however, is set to serve a one-match ban.

Mon 9 Dec, 2013
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