Both teams enter this Group G Champions League fixture riding long, unbeaten streaks. Both also sit atop the tables of their respective leagues.
For Celtic, they haven’t dropped points since a 0-0 draw against Benfica on Sept. 19. Since then, the Hoops are 6-0-0. During the streak they’ve outscored opponents 17-3. They currently sit atop the Scottish Premier League table at 6-2-1.
Barcelona, on the other hand, haven’t lost since their Super Cup showdown with league-rival Real Madrid back on Aug. 26. Since then, the Blaugrana have posted a 7-1-0 record. They currently sit tied atop the La Liga table at 7-1-0.
After winning their first two group fixtures, Barcelona can pretty much guarantee a spot in the knockout round with a victory. Celtic—coming off a victory and a draw—can’t afford such a luxury. A defeat would put them in a tough hole to climb out of.
In 17 home games in Champions League play, the Blaugrana are undefeated at home. In comparison, Celtic have only won one of their 21 away matches in their history in this competition.
In three previous Champions League meetings between the two teams at the Camp Nou, Barcelona has won one and the other two resulted in draws.
Will history be made Tuesday night?
Where: Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
When: Tuesday, October 23, 2:45 p.m. EST
TV/Live Stream: FOX Soccer Channel/FOX Soccer2go
Barcelona: Will Messi make up for poor defensive play?
Lionel Messi has been playing at a sensational level this year.
In the calendar year, Messi has already netted 71 goals for both Argentina and Barcelona combined. That leaves him only four goals off of the record set by Brazilian legend Pele, who netted 75 in 1959.
With over two months remaining, the record is as good as Messi’s.
His stellar play has been continued this season, as Messi’s 15 goals—including a league-leading 11—have catapulted Barcelona to an impressive 10-1-1 start in all competitions.
However, while Messi has been impressive, the Blaurgrana defense has been anything but.
Barcelona have already conceded 19 goals so far this season. For the last time the club allowed that many through this point in the season you’d have to go back over a decade.
Much of the dismal play can be credited to the injuries of Carlos Puyol, Dani Alves, Eric Abidal and Gerard Pique.
In their absence, Alex Song and Javier Mascherano have struggled to find their grounding. It was most noticeable in Barcelona’s recent 5-4 league victory over a 1-3-4 Deportivo side.
Up against much stiffer competition in Celtic, the pair have to get on the same page soon.
If not, even a Messi hat trick won’t be able to save them.
Celtic: Can Celtic's defense slow down Messi?
If Celtic’s play as of late can be considered sensational, their defensive performance has been downright amazing.
In 17 games in all competitions, Celtic have allowed only 11 goals. The club has recorded nine shutouts, including five in their last seven games.
Needless to say, goalkeeper Frazer Forster has been stellar in net.
On offense, striker Gary Hooper has been just as good.
In his last six games, the 24-year-old has found the back of the net eight times. This includes a four-goal onslaught against Raith on Sept. 25.
The striker has 10 goals on the season.
With Scott Brown, James Forrest, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons all returning to the squad from injuries, the Hoops look poised to pull off the improbable upset.
But the question still remains: Can anyone stop Messi?
That will go a long way in determining Celtic’s success Tuesday night.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-2.
Celtic have played defensively stout as of late. However, none of their opponents have been even close in the talent-level that Barcelona boast.
Expect Iniesta to have his way with the defense, setting up Messi for a brace.
Hooper will get on the board as well; however, his efforts won't be enough to push Celtic through.
Barcelona will get the win and move a step closer to advancing on top of Group G, while Celtic will have to look forward to another showdown with Barcelona as a must-win.
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