Morale will be high at Celtic at the moment after the Hoops’ 5-1 emphatic win against arch-rivals Rangers in the first Old Firm Derby of the season. Brendan Rodgers has maintained his 100% record in the Premiership but a big test awaits the Northern Irishman on Tuesday. After two long years, Celtic made it to the group stage of the Champions League and will kick off their Champions League campaign with an away trip to Barcelona.
With Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach alongside them, Celtic could not have imagined of a tougher group. Celtic making it to the round of 16 from such a strong group is a hard ask but not impossible. If Brendan Rodgers plays his cards right, we might get to see a big upset on Tuesday.
Remember that historic result Celtic managed against Barcelona on 7th November 2012 where Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 at Parkhead with just 34% possession of the ball and just three shots during the whole game? The two sides met in the International Champions Cup during pre-season and Barca won 3-1, not the worst scoreline for Celtic and it was just a friendly.
Here is a tactical setup Rodgers need to deploy to stop Barcelona.
Formation- 4-2-3-1 (double pivot)
Rodgers tried plenty of setups after taking charge of Celtic but finally had his success in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Rodgers should stick to it against Barcelona but he has to use both of his central midfielders in much deeper roles. Both Scott Brown and Nir Bitton have brilliant defensive abilities and their job will be to sit in front of the back four and provide a screen for the backline. The likes of Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta are highly creative midfielders and will be looking to burst forward with real intent and the duo of Bitton and Brown has to stop them.
Rodgers is not a particularly defensive manager but he has to take a rather conservative approach in the game and has to encourage all his players to track back every time. Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig will face real tests tomorrow against Messi and Neymar and the two full-backs need to ensure that they do enough to deal with the two wide players.
Rogic is likely to start as a number ten and Forrest and Sinclair will line up on the flanks while Moussa Dembele spearheads the attack. Even though their first priority will be to take on the Barcelona defence, they also need to ensure that they provide their defence with enough support.
Barcelona create their game with their neat passing and movements and Celtic should use man marking rather than a zonal marking and need to hold their ground firm. Luis Suarez’s movements will pose a big threat to Celtic defence and the Uruguayan should be marked by experienced Kolo Toure who used to be his teammates at Liverpool and knows his game very well.
Celtic managing to get an away point against Barcelona will be a good result for the Hoops and Rodgers should focus on containing them rather than beating them. Barcelona usually choke defensively when they fail to score and the Celtic attackers need to make use of that.