Neil Lennon is ‘daring to dream’ of causing an upset with Celtic against Barcelona, but warns that even without Lionel Messi, the task will be tough.
The Scots play host to the Catalans this Tuesday evening in the second round of matches for the Champions League group stages.
A re-run of last year’s group meeting between the two teams, The Bhoys’ tactician has admitted that going into the game he is dreaming of a possible repeat result to last year’s 2-1 win.
“I dare to dream it, oh yes. Whether we can do it or not, I don’t know, but we’ll do everything we possibly can to do that,” Lennon told today’s edition of The Scotsman.
“The win last year came right out of left field, but the performance against Barcelona in the Nou Camp beforehand, when we were unlucky not to take a point, gave the players great belief.
“We are at home, which always gives us an advantage no matter who we are playing. It can really lift you to another level and that’s what I’m hoping the atmosphere and occasion will do again.”
Lennon may welcome back Scotland international James Forrest, despite him only returning to training at the weekend after injury.
“We are limited in our choices, but we were limited against Barcelona last year as well. We didn’t have Gary Hooper and didn’t have Scott Brown for this game last year, so you make do with what you’ve got and make the most of them.
“We have to be cute in our game management. I’ve more or less got my plan in place. Because my hands are tied a little bit, I’m hoping Forrest will make it.
“We will see how he is. It would be a gamble to start him but sometimes I like to take those gambles.”
The Coach reflected that hopes will likely be placed in attack primarly on Georgios Samaras.
“If we are going to get something out of the game, I am going to need all of Georgios’s capabilities – his height, his physical presence and his running power.
“These games inspire him and he likes to play on his own up there. You just say to him
‘Go and do your thing’. We played him up there in both games against Barcelona last season.”
Barca head into the match without Lionel Messi.
“It was six of one and half a dozen of the other when I heard Messi was out. I’m delighted for selfish reasons that he is not playing. But for the game itself and the occasion, I’m a bit gutted he is not playing.
“Will Barcelona be a little bit different without him? Neymar has come in and I have seen a big improvement in Alexis Sanchez this season. Will it be Neymar and Pedro or Neymar and Sanchez?
“They don’t really change the way they play anyway. The only difference is they won’t have the wee man.
“Any team would be less effective if they lost Messi. Barcelona are no different. He is huge. But if you look at the games they have played without him, they have won the majority of them anyway.
“They can’t rely on him to pull it out of the bag all the time. They have Neymar, Cesc Fabregas, a lot of others who can do it too.
“We know what’s coming. I don’t know if Barcelona’s pride was hurt by losing here last year. But I know they will be coming here highly motivated.
“They will want to qualify from the group as quickly as possible. But the experience for me and players from last year is fresh. So we will be prepared.”