Celtic boss Neil Lennon insists Tuesday’s visit to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona is the ‘acid test’ for his young side.
Lennon, who paid a visit to Riazor on Saturday night to watch Tito Vilanova’s men in action in the thrilling 5-4 victory over Deportivo de La Coruna, was left more than impressed at what he observed.
“They were incredible in the first half-hour. The possession and the movement was tremendous,” he told the Daily Record as he prepared for the Champions League Group F fixture.
“Barca don’t play with a centre-forward as such. Their front players tend to suck you out then hit you with a bit of pace in the final third of the pitch.
“The third goal, Messi’s first, was a thing of beauty. And his hat-trick goal? Well, you run out of superlatives to describe him.
“It gets you thinking, ‘how do you stop that? How do you defend against that?’. Going forward, they’re a dream.
“Pedro came on a sub and makes lung-bursting 50 yard runs off the ball with pace. An extraordinary team.”
Unsurprisingly, Lennon is working on a plan to counter Barca’s style but is aware it is something that is easier said than done.
“We know all about them but whether we can combat their strengths is another thing. They have great pace throughout the team, full-backs, midfield, everywhere.”
Despite having witnessed the Catalans uncharacteristically ship four goals against Depor, Lennon maintains it would be foolish to talk of any weaknesses La Blaugrana may have at the back.
“Deportivo’s first three goals came from set-pieces and the fourth was an own goal, so they didn’t score from open play.
“There may be Barcelona defenders out but we are still talking about quality players going in as replacements. Mascherano was sent off and Adriano went on to look a class act at centre-back.
“Even at a man down, you felt there was another goal in Barcelona because they kept the ball so well. Even though Depor had the extra man, it looked at times as if Barca had it.”
Nonetheless, Lennon believes it was not a wasted trip as he tries to come up with a way to stop Barcelona’ s array of attacking players.
“It was good to see where they go off the ball because you don’t get to see that on television That will help a lot with the way we set up.
“I want us to try and create chances and we’ve done that in just about all of the games away from home in Europe in the past year, but this is the real acid test.
“This is the step up in class. They don’t come tougher than Barcelona away,” he added.