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HindustanTimes Sat,29 Nov 2014

Football

Celtic face motivated Barcelona with point to prove
AFP
Madrid, December 10, 2013
First Published: 09:48 IST(10/12/2013)
Last Updated: 09:57 IST(10/12/2013)

Barcelona welcome Celtic to the Camp Nou on Wednesday still needing a point to mathematically ensure they finish top of Champions League Group H.

The Catalans appeared to be cruising to first place and the benefit of having the second-leg of their last 16 tie at home having beaten AC Milan 3-1 to qualify on matchday four.

However, a 2-1 defeat away to Ajax in their last European outing leaves them just two points clear of Milan.

Defeat in Amsterdam was followed by another loss, this time on the domestic front, as Athletic Bilbao ended Barca's 26-game unbeaten run in La Liga five days later.

Gerardo Martino's men bounced back with a 4-1 win away to Cartagena in the Copa del Rey on Friday and midfielder Alex Song is looking for that improvement to continue against the Scottish champions.

"We know that we have lost, but we are professionals, we have great players in the squad and we know we how to focus ourselves once more," he told the club's website.

"We have been critical of ourselves (for the defeats) but now we need to look forward to improve things. That is what we do every day in training along with the management team.

"We want to win the game and put in a good performance. We have a lot to show after the last game in the Champions League. I am calm because we are preparing as we always do, with a lot of desire to play well."

Barca will again be without the injured Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes and Dani Alves, but Jordi Alba -- who scored an injury time minute winner when the two sides met at the Camp Nou last season -- returned against Cartagena after three months out and is expected to start.

Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Xavi are also expected to return having been rested at the weekend.

Celtic's 3-0 home defeat to Milan last time out extinguished any hopes they had of playing European football after Christmas.

It has been a frustrating campaign for Neil Lennon's men who have taken just three points from their five games to date.

However, Finish striker Teemu Pukki is backing his side to cause an upset and go out on a high.

"We can win it and we all want to win it," he told the club's website.

"We want to show in this match that we can win games in the Champions League.

"As much as we still wanted to be in the tournament at this stage we have nothing to lose now. We can go into the game with no pressure and the Camp Nou is one of the best places to play."

Lennon will be able to recall captain Scott Brown for the first time in the Champions League since he was sent-off in Barca's 1-0 win in Glasgow back in October.

And Greek forward Georgios Samaras is also expected to return despite missing Celtic's last two games in which they have scored 12 times without reply.


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