"Respect, not fear" has been the mantra for Celtic FC boss Gordon Strachan as he prepares to take on the might of FC Barcelona for a place in the quarter-finals.
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Respect, not fear: that is the mantra for Celtic FC manager Gordon Strachan as he prepares to take on the might of FC Barcelona for a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
The 51-year-old became the first Celtic boss to lead the club to the knockout stage last season and, having been narrowly edged out by eventual winners AC Milan, Strachan is targeting a first-leg victory to give his side a chance of progressing to the last eight. "I always think we can win," he said. "We put on a good show last season against AC Milan, which went to extra time over there, so we've played against good sides and given good games. [Paul] Scholes, [Ryan] Giggs, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Kaká, [Andrea] Pirlo, Simão have all come here over the last few years and somehow we've managed to handle that. We respect great players but we don't really fear anybody."
Having supervised a return to form which has yielded 13 Celtic goals in their last three domestic fixtures, Strachan is forced to change his lineup for the visit of the Catalan team. Midfielder Scott Brown is suspended while right-back Andreas Hinkel is cup-tied, having appeared in this competition with Sevilla FC. Paul Hartley and Gary Caldwell are the likely candidates to fill in at full-back. Strachan is eager for Celtic to gain a foothold in the game so that flair players such as Aiden McGeady can bring their influence to bear.
"We just want to compete," Strachan said. "You can only enjoy something if you compete and we hope we can compete so we can enjoy it. During the game we've got to try and give our good players a platform to play good football. We've got to stop Barcelona from giving their good players a platform to play, and hopefully the good players will decide the game."
With counterpart Frank Rijkaard serving a suspension, media duties were left to his assistant Johan Neeskens. Rijkaard is the only coach to have won a UEFA Champions League match at Celtic Park, after Barcelona beat Celtic 3-1 in the group stage three seasons ago, yet his colleague refuses to read too much into either that victory or the goalless group-stage draw at Rangers FC earlier this term.
"A lot has changed since that game four years ago and you can't compare Celtic with Rangers either," said Neeskens. "We are more worried about Celtic as a team but McGeady, [Shunsuke] Nakamura, [Jan] Vennegoor of Hesselink and [Scott] McDonald are playing very well for them at the moment."
Fantastic four available
For only the second time this season, Rijkaard has the combined talents of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry at his disposal – though it remains to be seen whether all four will start following a sequence of unconvincing domestic results, including Saturday's slender 2-1 triumph at Real Zaragoza. "We want to try and win, but with two games, we want a good away result," added Neeskens. "We will do our best to play our game and see what the result is."