Celtic vs. Barcelona: Lionel Messi Injury Gives Bhoys the Opening They Need

Aidan Reynolds@@aidanreynoldsContributor IIISeptember 30, 2013

Lionel Messi will miss the Champions League clash with Celtic.
Lionel Messi will miss the Champions League clash with Celtic.

It's not going to grant automatic victory by any means, but an absent Lionel Messi will spark hope among Celtic fans that their team can get something out of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Messi limped out of his side's 2-0 La Liga victory in Almeria, sparking concerns that he could miss the Champions League clash with Celtic. According to Sport and The Guardian, the 26-year-old is likely to miss the Celtic game, along with the following fixture against Valladolid, with a hamstring injuty.

Of course, a Barcelona side without Messi is still one that will be expected to triumph at Parkhead. Although that was also the case last year, and even a late goal from Messi couldn't get Barca back in the tie.

It's going to take another performance like the one in November last year, particularly from Fraser Forster. The Celtic 'keeper put in towering displays in both games against the Catalan giants, and it took an injury-time winner to deny the Bhoys a point at Camp Nou.

Nevertheless, Celtic will need to raise their attacking game if they are to progress in this year's competition. 

Although they put five goals past Kilmarnock at the weekend, they were occasionally careless in possession and allowed their opponents to get back in the game with two goals before half time. 

Sky Sports pundit John Collins had some words of warning for Neil Lennon's side ahead of the Barca game:

They are going to be on the back foot and have to work hard, stay tight and keep themselves in the game - and not give the ball away cheaply as they did against Kilmarnock. This will be a proper test.

I think Celtic started poorly in the first half, but in the second half they controlled the game. Kilmarnock backed off and tried to be more compact but it backfired because they couldn't get up the park and were chasing the ball and getting tired.

If they repeat this against la Blaugrana, they will quickly find themselves chasing the game. Even without Messi, Barca have added Neymar since the teams last met, so there will be plenty of creativity on the pitch.

Although Celtic have lost Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama from last year's campaign, the recent performance of Georgios Samaras will give Lennon some heart. The Greek striker scored a hat-trick against Kilmarnock and played well from a deep position, linking well with Kris Commons and looking a constant threat.

If Celtic are to succeed, they need to take every chance they get. The Scottish side only mustered three shots on goal in this fixture last year, compared with Barcelona's 25. Crucially, however, they were all on target, and two of them produced goals.

If Samaras can continue this run of form and communicate well with Commons, the Bhoys have a chance at getting a result. The defence is going to be under pressure for a lot of the game, and they have to retain their shape.

It's going to take everything Celtic have, but the loss of Messi for Barca gives the home side that little extra hope.