Barcelona will travel to Scotland on Tuesday to face off against Champions League rivals Celtic. It may be early in the Champions League group stage, but the Catalans will want to have a good showing following their 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park last year.
Going into the match, Barcelona will be clear favorites to take all three points. However, it will not be that easy with several key stars missing for La Blaugrana.
In this article, we will take a look at how Barcelona will line up against Celtic and how the Catalans should fare in Scotland.
As always, feel free to get involved in the comment section below and note that all statistics are courtesy of Who Scored.
Without a doubt, Victor Valdes will yet again be standing between the posts for Barcelona. The Catalan keeper has been in scintillating form this season and it should continue at Celtic Park on Tuesday.
However, Tata Martino will have to make alterations against Celtic in defense.
Dani Alves will again feature as the starting right-back. The Brazilian has played in all but one game this season and is an unquestioned starter for La Blaugrana.
Gerard Pique will also be an easy choice for Martino in the Barcelona back line. The 26-year-old has played every minute for Barcelona this season and has been a mainstay in the defensive line.
Martino may have half of his regular defense ready to play, but he will be missing the other half.
Earlier this month, Barcelona reported on their official website that defender Jordi Alba had suffered a thigh injury and would miss the next three weeks of action.
Since the injury, Adriano has stood in for the Catalan left-back and should do so again on Tuesday.
The biggest issue will be the remaining center-back spot in Barcelona’s defense. Just five days ago, the Daily Mail reported that Javier Mascherano had suffered a hamstring injury and would miss up to two weeks of action.
Martino has several options to stand in for Mascherano, but it appears as though there is only one real choice. Marc Bartra has featured in his place since Mascherano’s injury and should continue to do so. The 22-year-old has played phenomenally alongside Pique and has arguably deserved his starting place this season.
The easiest area to predict for Barcelona is the midfield. The world-renowned trio of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have achieved everything that players could hope for and will again show their quality against Celtic.
Xavi has benefited from Martino’s rotational system. Getting more rest has made the midfielder look extremely sharp and dangerous.
Andres Iniesta had a slow start to the season but is quickly getting back to his best form and should prove to be a key performer against Celtic. His ability to keep possession and go forward causes problems for every defender and that will remain the same in Scotland.
Cesc Fabregas could possibly start in the midfield for either Xavi or Iniesta, as he has been the most outstanding player for Barcelona in his position this season.
However, Fabregas will be needed elsewhere against Celtic and we will get to that in just a moment.
The biggest news surrounding Barcelona ahead of their trip to Scotland is the fitness of Lionel Messi. The Daily Mail has reported that the Argentine will miss the clash with Celtic after picking up a thigh injury, meaning someone will have to fill in.
At this point, it seems like an easy question to answer.
When Messi left the pitch against Almeria, it was Cesc Fabregas who immediately replaced him. It's more than likely be Fabregas again who will stand in for Messi against Celtic, but the most important thing is who will be partnering the Catalan in attack.
Neymar should start on the left wing for Barcelona as he always does. The Brazilian could feature in place of Messi, but it is more likely that he will not be changing positions.
It is the right wing that will see the most debate regarding who should start.
Both Pedro and Alexis Sanchez have been in wonderful form this season, and have stated their cases as to why they should start.
With Messi missing the match, Barcelona will need to find scoring from other players. For this reason, it is most likely that Pedro will start over Sanchez, as he has already scored five goals this season in comparison to the two goals from the Chilean.
Missing Lionel Messi will be a tough thing to overcome. However, Barcelona is still a club full of quality and should remain heavy favorites against Celtic. Scoring will be difficult for the Catalans, but they should still come away victors in Scotland.
Who will start for Barcelona against Celtic? Will the absence of Lionel Messi hurt the Catalans? Leave your thoughts and comments below!