With a crushing inevitability, Celtic were drawn in a difficult group with regular rivals Barcelona. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Bundesliga dark-horses Borussia Monchengladbach complete the group of death. Celtic legend John Hartson described it as one that “could have been worse, it could have been easier.” So what can Celtic fans expect from our European adversaries?
The Catalan giants need no introduction. The perennial challengers and frequent winners have recently added to their plethora of stars; French defensive duo Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne bolster a defence that at times can appear porous, while Dennis Suarez and Andre Gomes give further options to an already mesmeric midfield. Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen has been drafted into to replace the Manchester City bound Claudio Bravo. The one area of weakness, right-back, has not been addressed following Dani Alves’ decision to move to Juventus. Instead an attempt to convert midfielder Sergi Roberto has been made.
Star Man – Lionel Messi
The Argentinian rises above even the most prestigious of his squad mates. By now we all know what Messi provides; the goals, the dribbles, the ability to both control an entire game and yet change the course of events in a single moment. However, what is most impressive is his evolution, his passing range (an underrated quality of his) is so vast that the loss of Xavi has not been as seismic as many had feared. This deeper starting position has allowed the continued growth of both Luis Suarez and Neymar – the best forward line in football history.
Unsung Hero – Sergio Busquets
The enforcer is the best example of how one moment, one bad decision, can forever hamper your reputation. The image of him peering through his fingers, feigning injury, in a successful attempt to get Inter Milan’s Thiago Motta sent off has become indelible. However, Busquets is so much more. There is a strong case to suggest that he is the finest midfielder in the world – he is certainly the most underrated. He creates the tempo; he is the bottleneck from which play flows. Stop Busquets and you can go a long way in stopping Barcelona.
Stay tuned for our look at Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.