Champions League: Barcelona's stalemate with Malaga gives Celtic hope

Barcelona
Barcelona endured a goalless draw at home to Malaga on Saturday
Champions League: Celtic v Barcelona
Venue: Celtic Park Date: Wednesday, 23 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW and text commentary online

Celtic don't need to look far for inspiration as they prepare to put their Champions League hopes on the line against the tournament favourites.

Barcelona arrive in Glasgow on Tuesday lunchtime for the latest shoot-out between familiar foes, where defeat would finally end the Scottish champions' hopes of reaching the last 16.

And Celtic will be praying that Lionel Messi has not made that flight.

Barca's Argentina superstar missed Saturday's exasperating goalless draw at home to mid-table Malaga with illness.

And it is the Andalusians who will have handed Brendan Rodgers a degree of confidence that his team can repeat Celtic's barnstorming 2012 victory over the same opponents.

Barca had 81% possession against Juande Ramos' outsiders. They had 14 corners and 28 shots at goal. They didn't have Messi.

The 29-year-old was on his sick bed as his team-mates fired blanks at the Nou Camp for the first time since February 2015.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta has also been dogged by knee problems throughout the season.

They didn't have the suspended Luis Suarez either, though the Uruguay striker returns for their trip to Scotland.

And, while Luis Enrique's side still possess more than enough to sweep aside just about anyone and everyone, there is little doubt they are prone to the odd bout of profligacy without him.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi may not be available for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Celtic

The Barca boss's post-match tone suggested more than a bit of frustration at the spilling of two home points, describing his side as "infinitely" better.

"It's very difficult to create clear-cut chances against a team that takes such a defensive approach," he said.

"I can only praise my team, my players and the fans. They didn't get the reward they deserved.

"We have lost games with Messi and Suarez in the team. It's squads that win titles."

Enrique was clearly irked by the Malaga approach, with the visitors' penalty box resembling the M8 Plantation at rush hour throughout.

However, the discipline, determination and no little luck that Malaga carried will have to be replicated by Rodgers' men and, the more the Northern Irishman thinks about it, the more he'll be convinced they can keep their European hopes alive.

For his part, former Tottenham Hotspur boss Ramos claimed it would have been "suicide" to approach the match with anything other than containment in mind.

"My players were exceptional," he said. "We had four players from the B team playing. It would have been suicide not to have played how we played.

"We prepared for the game Barca were going to play with their best players [available]. We didn't change that.

"They played with 11 internationals. To have had Lionel would have been another problem, but we coped with everything they threw at us."

Brendan Rodgers
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers may learn from Malaga's dogged defensive display against Barcelona

As the saying goes, it is the hope that kills you.

Barca have lost both the matches they have played immediately before their last two games against Celtic, before going on to inflict record European defeats on their Scottish opponents.

Another saying is that hope springs eternal.

And, depending on what happens in Monchengladbach, with Manchester City visiting Borussia, it may be that Celtic have to produce something even more gargantuan than their 2012 heroics to drag their European season through the cold winter months.

They would do worse than study the performance of Ramos' men from the Costa del Sol in their quest to do so.

Champions League Group CPlayedGDPoints
Barcelona4+109
Manchester City4+27
Borussia Monchengladbach4-34
Celtic4-92

Top two teams qualify for group stages; third-placed team enters Europa League; fourth-placed team eliminated

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