After the 5-1 mauling of bitter rivals Rangers, you would forgive Celtic for having a belief that they could maybe get a positive result as they took on one of the greatest teams on the planet as they travelled to the Nou Camp.
But the merciless beating at the hands of Barcelona will raise some questions which I’m sure the Celtic backroom staff will be unwilling to answer, the game which was always going to be hard was made even more difficult as a series of defensive lapses allowed Messi and co stroll to victory.
There will be serious questions over the selection of new man Doris De Vries as the Dutch sweeper-keeper flapped at a Neymar free-kick which he really should have done better with, to add to that the reasoning for the Dutchman’s inclusion ahead of Craig Gordon was his ability with his feet. But on his showing at the Nou Camp and against Aberdeen I have yet to see this much talked about range of passing as time and time again the Dutchman carelessly gave the ball away.
The thoughts of beating Barcelona was far-fetched but the blueprint had been laid out for Celtic only three days beforehand as Alaves upset the Spanish champions winning 2-1 in a game where they out-worked Barcelona forcing the Catalan side to call on Messi, Suarez and Iniesta – all of whom were to be rested ahead of the tie against Celtic.
Alaves were encamped on their 18-yard line with 5-4-1 that pressed the ball zonally and effectively choking Barcelona’s supply which led to them winning the ball more than most do at the Nou Camp.
They exploited the space which Is commonly left in behind both of the full backs as Vidal and Digne pushed forward joining the Barcelona attack, with the space available, Alaves placed long balls into the space that had been left and the Alaves forward line time and time again managed to pick the ball up and take their side 40 yards up the park to relieve the defence which at times was under huge pressure.
But the biggest pointer to Barcelona’s weakness that night was the manner of both goals as they struggled to deal with crosses all night, as an in-swinging free-kick and a low whipped ball were the downfall for the La Liga champions.
But with all this to hand Celtic showed the Catalans far too much respect, standing off and at times scared to engage the opposition in possession and ended up paying the price with their heaviest defeat in European Football – something which will leave a bad taste in the mouth for years to come.