Pres­sure is com­pletely off Rodgers in Cat­alo­nia, says Sut­ton

While old guard took re­sults from Camp Nou for­mer striker in­sists this one’s a ‘free­bie’

The Herald - Herald Sport - - CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - NEIL CAMERON

CHRIS SUT­TON be­lieves Celtic’s visit to Camp Nou to­mor­row is a “free­bie” be­cause no­body ex­pects them to get any­thing from their open­ing Cham­pi­ons League match against Barcelona. The for­mer Park­head striker played in two fa­mous draws in the Cata­lan cap­i­tal for the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons – one of them com­ing in 2004 when Martin O’Neill’s team knocked out their op­po­nents in the UEFA Cup – and was at the game in Glas­gow four sea­sons ago when a teenaged Tony Watt wrote his name into the his­tory books in the 2-1 vic­tory.

Celtic have a de­cent record at Camp Nou over the years (we shall draw a veil over that 6-1 de­feat from a few years back) and given what hap­pened on Satur­day, both in Glas­gow and Barcelona, they will ar­rive in Spain feel­ing qui­etly con­fi­dent.

How­ever, this re­mains an ex­cep­tional Barcelona team who when in the mood will run over far bet­ter sides than the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons. This is why Sut­ton be­lieves Bren­dan Rodgers and his men can go into this match with lit­tle pres­sure on them.

BT Sport’s Scot­tish foot­ball ex­pert Sut­ton said: “Tues­day is a bit of a free­bie. The big­gest thing was get­ting into the group stage and in many re­spects the pres­sure is off.

“Are re­sults im­por­tant? Of course. But I’d say that per­for­mances are more im­por­tant. I don’t think any­one ex­pects Celtic to get out of this group. You have Barca, Man City and Moenchenglad­bach are a re­ally strong side. Celtic will be do­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well to get be­yond Christ­mas.

“The goal is and al­ways was get­ting to the group stage. It’s a game changer for the club and four months ago this just wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen. Celtic would have strug­gled to get into the Europa League. It’s an enor­mous thing and the play­ers should en­joy it. The play­ers and Bren­dan will have a per­sonal pride and it’s im­por­tant that the play­ers go over, give it a go and show that it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent side that was a sham­bles com­pet­ing in Europe last sea­son.”

Sut­ton, who writes a col­umn in the Daily Record, was a persistent critic of Ronny Deila, a man he said from the start wasn’t up to the task of man­ag­ing Celtic. He was proven right.

And it’s be­cause of Celtic’s dis­mal record un­der the Nor­we­gian in Europe that he sees Tues­day night as some­thing to look for­ward to rather than to be wor­ried about.

Sut­ton said: “If you go back to Molde last sea­son, and I was over there, if some­one had said at that par­tic­u­lar time that we would be in Barcelona in early Septem­ber play­ing Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball you would have thought they were ab­so­lutely bonkers and drank too much Nor­we­gian beer.”

Even if Celtic can pro­duce the per­for­mance of their lives, they will need to do some de­fend­ing and for long spells. Celtic have only kept two clean sheets all sea­son and this is why there is a feel­ing Rodgers will go with a back five, and Sut­ton will be glad to see Kolo Toure in the cen­tre of it all, stand­ing up to Lionel Messi and the rest.

Sut­ton said: “We have all sat and watched the games over the last cou­ple of sea­sons and Celtic have been picked off de­fen­sively against op­po­si­tion who aren’t as good as they’re go­ing to play this sea­son.

“Bren­dan Rodgers ob­vi­ously had to come in and make changes de­fen­sively, bring­ing in Toure with his ex­pe­ri­ence and I still think he has enough pace. I think in the Be’er Sheva game he was one player who came out of that with any credit.

“We all know what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the Nou Camp in terms of Barcelona con­trol­ling pos­ses­sion; they’re not a team that’s go­ing to load balls in the box from wide ar­eas they are go­ing to try to play through.

“It’s im­por­tant that they have an or­gan­iser at the back and that’s what Toure was brought in for, es­sen­tially. It’s cru­cial that Celtic stay in the game for as long as pos­si­ble. It’s an ob­vi­ous thing to say, but as play­ers that’s what you feel: weather that first 20, 25 min­utes and then play your way into the game.

“But Celtic do have pace on the counter and that’s some­thing, a di­men­sion, that Scott Sin­clair es­pe­cially has given Celtic. It will be in­ter­ested to see the team se­lec­tion. I know Bren­dan said he likes to take a risk but he won’t go 4-4-2.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if he plays James For­rest or Pa­trick Roberts on the other side.”

So can this Celtic side do what Sut­ton’s team achieved twice which was to come away from Cat­alo­nia with a draw?

Sut­ton re­called: “To be hon­est we went into those games, as we did against most teams at Cham­pi­ons League level – I’m not say­ing we were a bet­ter team than Barcelona, clearly – but we al­ways felt if we turned up and worked hard and com­peted that, with the likes of Hen­rik Lars­son and John Hart­son up top, we had a threat from set-pieces.

“We were aware of that and ex­ploited that in the 1-1 draw.

“You al­ways feel if you stay in the game you have an op­por­tu­nity. That will be the same on Tues­day night. If Celtic can keep it tight at the back some­thing might just hap­pen, some­body might just make a name for him­self.”

You have Barca, Man City and Moenchenglad­bach are a re­ally strong side. Celtic will be do­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well to get be­yond Christ­mas

AIR­ING HIS VIEWS: BT Sport’s Chris Sut­ton will be in Camp Nou for Celtic’s Cham­pi­ons League Group C opener against Barcelona to­mor­row night.

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