Celtic manager Neil Lennon has expressed his disappointment over accusations by Barcelona that his team play “anti-football” ahead of the Champions League game against the Spanish giants at Parkhead.
In the first match between the sides at the Nou Camp last month, Celtic led through Giorgios Samara and despite Andres Iniesta’s equaliser looked set to hold on for a brave draw before Jordi Alba’s stoppage-time goal secured a 2-1 win for the home side.
Former Barcelona player Bernd Schuster ridiculed the Scottish champions in the aftermath, saying the Glasgow side should not be in the Champions League.
Although Barcelona midfielder Xavi accepts that Celtic are far from easy to play against, he described their style as an “anti-football system” before the Group G match on Wednesday.
Barcelona have won all three games and Celtic remain second in the standings on four points with a trip to Benfica and a home game against Spartak Moscow to follow the return with the Spanish side.
Lennon, who could be without five key players, defended his team’s approach as he prepares for a second meeting with Tito Vilanova’s side.
The Celtic manager said a similar selection and system earned a 3-2 victory at Spartak Moscow, the club’s first away win in the Champions League.
“I wasn’t angry with the accusations but I was disappointed,” he said.
“I’ve watched Barcelona on many occasions and, even when they’re away from home, they have dominated with 70 per cent possession and against Chelsea and Real Madrid it was sometimes 80 percent.
“We have no reason to expect the bulk of possession and we will concede ground and the ball because they’re the best and they’ve proved it consistently for the last seven or eight years.
“It’s a pivotal year of celebration and this would be the crowning glory”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon
“We never set out to be defensive, we try to have a realistic game plan.
Lennon will definitely be without Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre who has been ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring problem.
Defender Thomas Rogne and midfielder Jamie Forrest are also set to miss out with calf and hamstring injuries, while strikers Giorgios Samaras (hamstring) and Gary Hooper (ankle) both doubtful.
Captain Scott Brown promised that his team would be more attacking than they were in the Nou Camp and Lennon said a surprise result should not be discounted as the club mark their 125th anniversary.
“It’s a pivotal year of celebration and this would be the crowning glory,” Lennon said.
“Against Barcelona you have to play at your best, with full concentration and great intensity, and even that is sometimes not enough.
“Anything can happen and we’ll be hoping we can catch Barcelona on an off night or a bad moment.”