Celtic were always going to go into the Champions League match against Barcelona up against it so they needed to show a lot of heart and determination which they did do. This helped them to compete with Barca over the course of 90 minutes and although they conceded a lot of possession, they maintained their concentration brilliantly until the final moments of the match.
Celtic managed to keep two banks of four in place throughout which made it difficult for Barcelona to penetrate and get through on goal. They played the ball around in front of the defence as they normally do but Celtic stayed glued together as a unit which allowed them to deal with it. This reduced the chances of a Barca player slipping in behind.
What also helped was that the midfield bank of four played well in front of the defence and the gap between both was not that great. This meant that when Barcelona lost the ball or played a rare bad pass, the midfield could latch onto it and helped the side as a whole move up the pitch and away from their own goal which is vital in taking the pressure away from the defensive players.
“I'm very proud but I don't like losing, I never have. Barcelona deserved to win on balance, I understand that. We just needed to see out one more attack but it didn't work out for us. I take satisfaction from the performance but I don't want the players getting carried away because we're only at the halfway stage,” said Celtic manager Neil Lennon after the game.
Another area where Celtic deserve massive credit is the way in which they mixed up their attacks. They kept Barcelona guessing in the respect that they didn’t just try and hoof the ball long every time they won back possession. The way Barcelona play means that there is always going to be space in wide areas and through the midfield to attack. Celtic switched this up nicely.
They also made the most of their set pieces which helped in terms of getting the team away from their own penalty box and giving Barcelona problems in terms of their physical presence. Set pieces are one of the most important areas for any side when they are playing against a much stronger and higher quality opponent. Celtic looked as though they could steal a goal every single time they got a set piece close to the Barca penalty area.
“You are never comfortable because the top teams keep going right to the end but we can take a huge amount from the game. It's a sore one to take but I thought the team were magnificent,” added Lennon.
image: © celticphotos