Celtic vs. Barcelona: Key Matchups That Will Decide Champions League Showdown

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVNovember 7, 2012

Heading on the road and into a tough Champions League match Wednesday, Barcelona will certainly have their hands full when they travel to face Celtic and will need to win these key matchups in order to notch a victory.

The two sides faced each other on October 23, when Barca struggled to find their form despite playing in front of their home fans at Nou Camp. However, they pulled out a scintillating 2-1 victory on an extra-time goal from Jordi Alba.

Things will undoubtedly be much harder this time around for Lionel Messi and company, as they'll enter a fierce environment at Parkhead, where the Scottish champions characteristically play at top form. 

Let's take a look at the biggest matchups heading into this Champions League bout that will decide victory.

 

Georgios Samaras vs. Barcelona Defense

In a shocking beginning to the first match between these two foes, Celtic striker Georgios Samaras put his team in front in a hostile environment at Nou Camp.

He ended up coming off later in the match with an ankle injury and hasn't seen the field since, but it'll be imperative for the Scottish club's chances of winning that he suits up Wednesday. 

Barca's defense certainly had their hands full with the Greek international player back in October, most notably winger Dani Alves. With Carles Puyol out indefinitely, players like Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano must step up and stifle the Cetlic attack. 

This is a new-look combination of Bartra and Mascherano after years of seeing Puyol and Gerard Pique man the center of the back line, and they've had their growing pains. Playing on the road won't help, but these are the types of statement games that will help them gain support moving forward.

Samaras was a thorn in Barcelona's side through the first half of the October 23 match, and he'll likely be similarly painful this time around. Stopping him should be Barcelona's first priority.

 

Victor Valdes vs. Fraser Foster

This match could end up coming down to just one thing: which goalkeeper plays their best.

Though, that wasn't exactly the case last time around. Barcelona goalkeeper and Spanish international Victor Valdes struggled through the match, looking slow on the lone Celtic goal. As usual when his club plays at home, he wasn't tested much other than the one Samaras score. 

On the other end of the token, Celtic goalie Fraser Foster dazzled with an impressive performance on the road. When Messi, Andres Iniesta and company went on their late-game surge, Foster kept his team level on the scoreline until the final minute of extra time.

The incredible performance from Foster wasn't enough the first time around, but playing at Parkhead will give his team more confidence and will keep the ball on the other side of the pitch much more. His chances to have an affect on the game will be more rare, but equally vital to the match.

 

Andres Iniesta vs. Celtic Midfield

We've come to expect brilliant performances match-in and match-out from international superstar Andres Iniesta, and he gave us no less in these two foes' first showdown.

Iniesta scored the game-tying goal late in the first half, a crucial momentum swing just before both squads entered the locker room. While Barcelona certainly wasn't happy going into half without a lead, it was a shot in the arm that propelled them to a dominating second half possession-wise. 

However, Iniesta still had his hands full against a stingy Celtic midfield. Victor Wanyama has been linked to transfer rumors and bolstered his price with a strong performance against Barca in last month's affair. 

Additionally, Scottish footballer Scott Brown is looking more and more healthy each week and his form will have to be on par to stifle the hefty Barca possession rate.

 

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