Celtic skipper Brown fit for Barcelona clash

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Scott Brown checks in at Glasgow Airport for Celtic's flight to Barcelona

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    TEAM NEWS

    Celtic captain Scott Brown has been declared fit and ready to face Barcelona in their opening Champions League group match on Tuesday.

    The midfielder was injured during their 5-1 Premiership win over Rangers on Saturday, but travelled to Spain.

    The Scottish champions are without striker Leigh Griffiths, who is still recovering from a hamstring tear.

    Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta are set to return for Barcelona after being rested on Saturday.

    All three appeared as second-half substitutes but could not prevent the Spanish champions from slipping to a 2-1 home defeat by Alaves.

    Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen made his Barcelona debut against Alaves but Marc-Andre ter Stegen trained on Monday and could make an earlier than expected return from a hamstring injury.

    MATCH PREVIEW

    Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies believes the hosts have brought pressure on themselves with their surprise loss on Saturday.

    “If you lose at home, it is not nice, and it does add a bit of pressure to the next game,” he said. “That is just a reality, and they will admit that themselves.

    “We can take a lot of confidence into this game. We had a pre-season game against them (Celtic lost 3-1) which was probably good for us, to give them a feel for being around their players.

    “And we are in great form. I have no doubt Barcelona will respect the level we are going to bring. We do take confidence into the game and hopefully we can grow into it and win some points.

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    “The level of our play, the goals we are scoring, how creative and organised we are looking, we are confident we can go anywhere and get points. That is what we are taking into the game.”

    Davies admitted Brown’s presence is a boost, after he limped off in the 74th minute of Saturday’s rout of Rangers.

    “He’s been fantastic since we got here and we’re going to need him,” he said.

    Celtic need ‘perfect’ game

    Davies was also assistant to Brendan Rodgers during his time as Liverpool manager, when they worked with Barcelona’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez.

    “They are top, top players,” he noted. “You have to have your game plan and execute it perfectly if you are going to win any points at all.

    “It is really about trying to control the space they have to attack as much as anything. And when we have got the ball, trying to create.

    “As soon as the Rangers game was over on Saturday, we were straight on to watching Barcelona’s game against Alaves, thinking about this game and finalising our preparations.

    “We will see what that means system-wise, but we are obviously going to have to be perfect on the night to get the points.”

    Big guns back for Barca

    Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar in training

    Barcelona’s famous attacking trident of Messi, Suarez and Neymar are expected to start together for the first time this season, with the Brazilian returning from Olympic duty at the weekend.

    “They are the best strikers in the world and that reassures you,” said full-back Jordi Alba, who was also rested for the defeat to Alaves.

    Asked if Messi remained the main focus of the team, Alba replied: “We have a roster of great players but it would be silly to say he is not important. He makes us play better, he helps in defence. He has been the best player in the world for so long. He is essential for us.

    “It’s the same as every year, we aspire to win the three titles [La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Ray].

    “A good start is important, so we need three points. Against Celtic, we need to have the ball, be aggressive in recovering the ball and to create opportunities down the sides.”

    HEAD TO HEAD

    Celtic and Barcelona have been regular Champions League opponents, meeting in the group stages in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – Celtic’s last participation at this stage.

    Prior to that, the clubs faced each another in the Fairs Cup in 1964 and in the 2004 Uefa Cup.

    The overall record in those 12 matches has seen Celtic win two, draw three and lose seven.

    In the Champions League, Barcelona have won six out of eight, Celtic’s only successes coming in a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp in 2004, and a memorable 2-1 win at Parkhead in 2012.

    MOST RECENT MEETING

    Barcelona 6-1 Celtic (11 Dec, 2013)

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