6:42:20 PMCeltic ready for battling Barca
|Barcelona striker Thierry Henry |
Henry & co have been winning the hard way this season
"At the moment we're showing heart to get through matches."
Scots are well used to their football described in terms of 'heart', 'grit' and 'fight'.
However, these are the words not of Gordon Strachan, Walter Smith or Jimmy Calderwood, but of Thierry Henry.
The phrase 'winning ugly' is not normally a characteristic associated with one of Europe's most gifted teams.
Yet the French striker felt this best summed up his Barcelona team's way of grinding out narrow victories this year in La Liga.
The Catalans are only five points behind great rivals Real Madrid, but are eking out some unconvincing wins.
The Spanish press writes of the current team's 'great lack of goals', and the sublimely talented Lionel Messi has yet to break his duck in 2008.
But their public is ambivalent as to whether the title is already a lost cause, especially because of the way they are under-performing.
Some sections of the Camp Nou are growing dissatisfied, questioning whether coach Frank Rijkaard's time has come and gone.
It is in this shape that the 'Azulgrana' visit Scotland for the third time in a year when they play Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Back in July they kicked-off their pre-season with a 1-0 win at Tannadice against Dundee United.
During their training camp at St Andrews Rijkaard said he would gladly bring his squad back to Scotland again.
He probably did not bank on coming back so soon - or so often.
Rangers were prepared for Ronaldinho, Messi and Henry when they played in the group stage at Ibrox in October.
A combination of solid defensive tactics from the home team, and impotence on the part of the visitors, saw Rangers gain a creditable draw.
Perhaps Celtic will be able to take encouragement from Rangers' performance.
But Barca have succeeded where AC Milan, Manchester United, Lyon and Bayern Munich failed - by winning at Celtic Park in the Champions League.
Fans of the Parkhead club will not need any reminder of the 3-1 defeat in September 2004, when former hero Henrik Larsson returned to score against them.
And this time Rijkaard will have the so-called 'Fantastic Four' of Ronaldinho, Messi, Henry and Eto'o all available for selection for only the second time all season.
Henrik Larsson salutes the Celtic Park crowd back in 2004
They can also afford to leave out talents like Edmilson, Bojan Krkic and Gianluca Zambrotta.
Eto'o's return could be significant after the Cameroonian striker showed his prowess at the Africa Cup of Nations, by setting a new goal-scoring record in the tournament.
For Celtic the quarter-finals is the next level, but to get there they will need to take something from the tie at home.
One of the players who Celtic will be relying upon to inspire them is the man whose team-mates call 'The Magician.'
Shunsuke Nakamura may drift in and out of matches, but there is no denying his contributions can be pivotal, and he will be especially motivated for this match.
It has always been the Japanese midfielder's dream to play in Spain, though at 29 he feels his chance has passed.
But he has revealed recently that he specifically dreamt of playing for Barcelona.
And he considers the opportunity to play against the Catalan club as the highlight of his career.
Strachan will hope the added incentive of impressing will bring out an extra-special performance in Nakamura.
And, of course, Aiden McGeady will be eager to shine on the same stage as Ronaldinho and Messi.
Rijkaard's latest preferred 4-3-3 formation should afford Nakamura and McGeady the space to advance.
And they must use it or they could find themselves under siege as the Catalans look to re-ignite their season, and Rijkaard looks to preserve his job.
Barcelona is a by-word for footballing excellence, but recent form has shown they are not flawless.
Strachan will no doubt tell his players to respect the visitors.
But he will also remind them that they have already put some of Europe's best to the sword at Celtic Park.
However, Celtic will have to box clever, because this Barca team are showing they will not go down without a fight.
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