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Martino: Tempo key to Barcelona success

FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino stressed the importance of a high-tempo approach against Celtic FC with a draw enough to guarantee his side top spot in Group H.

Gerardo Martino speaks on Tuesday
Gerardo Martino speaks on Tuesday ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino pressed home the importance of "distributing the ball with pace and precision" when his side face Celtic FC at the Camp Nou. 

The Spanish title holders require a point to win Group H if AC Milan beat AFC Ajax, but Martino is eager to take all three as part of his Christmas wishlist. Neil Lennon is keen for Celtic to go out of Europe on a high.

Gerardo Martino, coach 
The game remains very important as we want to finish top of the group. We need to win on Wednesday and put in a good performance. Distributing the ball with pace and precision is vital because we won't be afforded much space. We must also be effective in applying pressure when we lose possession to avoid getting hit on the counterattack.

The game is important in terms of qualification and morale. We want to qualify as group winners, make the last 16 of the Copa del Rey and be top of the league by Christmas.

Neymar is a player with many qualities. He is not a goalscorer like Lionel Messi, more a provider like Alexis Sánchez, Pedro Rodríguez and Cesc Fàbregas. There have been games where we haven't been at our best this season. I expect us to get better as time goes on. It's the reaction of the group when things aren't going our way which is most important.

Weekend result
Friday: FC Cartagena 1-4 Barcelona (Fernando 16; Pedro 36 75, Fàbregas 43, Dongou 90)
Pinto; Adriano, Bartra, Puyol, Alba (Montoya 80); Song, Busquets, Roberto; Alexis (Dongou 77), Fàbregas, Pedro.

• Striker Jean Marie Dongou, 18, marked his first-team debut with a goal as Barcelona came from 1-0 down to win 4-1 away to third-division Cartagena in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fourth-round tie.

Team news
Lionel Messi (hamstring) and Víctor Valdés (calf) are sidelined, while Xavi Hernández (calf) and Andrés Iniesta (hamstring) are expected to feature after missing out at the weekend. Daniel Alves has not played since returning from international duty with a calf problem and Cesc Fàbregas is suspended. In better news, Cristian Tello has recovered from an ankle sprain, but Jonathan Dos Santos could be out until April after suffering knee ligament damage in training on 23 October.

Neil Lennon, manager
Getting a good result against Barça is important in terms of the context of the season and also looking ahead to the next one. We are without doubt going to have to play a great game. [Barcelona] lost against Athletic Club while playing some great football at times.

We will need a lot of discipline and tactical prowess. We will need to be brave with the ball. Yet even in doing all those things, it still might not be enough to win against Barça. We have had some good moments this term. We are not going to treat Neymar any differently to the rest of Barcelona's players.

These types of games represent huge occasions for us and the truth is that I am really eager for this game to start as soon as possible. There is a lot of respect between both clubs. They are two institutions that get along very well.

[Regarding Emilio Izaguirre's absence through suspension] it will be a problem to find out who is going to play in his position because he has been in great form this early season. Definitely a big problem. Luckily Adam Matthews is back.

Weekend result
Friday: Motherwell FC 0-5 Celtic (Commons 44 76, Ambrose 54, Stokes 78, Atajić 90)
Forster; Ambrose, Van Dijk, Mulgrew; Lustig, Brown (Henderson 84), Ledley, Izaguirre; Commons (Atajić 79); Pukki (Boerrigter 79), Stokes.

• Celtic have scored 12 unanswered goals in their last two Scottish Premier League games, both away from home.

Team news
Along with Izaguirre's suspension, James Forrest is out with a hamstring strain while Giorgios Samaras and Nir Biton missed the Motherwell match with a virus. Beram Kayal broke a bone in his foot on matchday five and has been laid off until the new year. Steven Mouyokolo (Achilles) and Tom Rogic are also sidelined but Adam Matthews (broken collarbone, 5 October) is in the squad.

Match fact
• Barcelona earned a last-gasp success when the clubs met at the Camp Nou on 23 October last year, Jordi Alba hitting the winner four minutes into added time after Iniesta (45) had equalised a Samaras (18) strike.