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Barça seek to stay on top


BARCELONA — Barcelona entertain Celtic tonight looking to maintain their winning start to Champions League Group G with an in-form Lionel Messi, but the Catalans continue to struggle at the back with injuries.

BarÇa are in pole position after back-to-back victories and can now take a significant step towards qualifying for the last 16 if they come out on top against Celtic who managed a surprise win away to Spartak Moscow in their last game to leave them second on four points.

Despite regular centre-halves Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique having spent most of the season in the treatment room, BarÇa have been a model of efficiency.

Although they haven’t reached the peak of recent campaigns in terms of performance, only the El Clasico draw against Real Madrid has stopped them from boasting a perfect winning Liga record.

Messi, who will miss the birth of his first child to play in the match, once again showed his importance to the team with a hat-trick at the weekend as BarÇa beat Deportivo La Coruňa 5-4 and he now already has 15 goals this season.

His tally for the calendar year is up to a remarkable 71.

BarÇa dismissed any fears of tiredness as they stormed into a three-goal lead away to Deportivo, but a harsh penalty awarded for a foul by Javier Mascherano allowed the Galician side back into the game.

In the end they were left holding on for the final 10 minutes with just a goal advantage and down to 10 men following the dismissal of Mascherano for a second yellow card.

Xavi Hernandez and Pedro Rodriguez started the game on the bench as they were given a break ahead of the visit from Celtic, but coach Tito Vilanova didn’t risk dropping Messi who had been on international duty with Argentina.

However, the World Player of the Year is also expecting to become a father for the first time in the coming days, which could affect his availability against the Scottish champions.

With Puyol and Pique still not fully fit, it’s likely that Mascherano and Alex Song will be the centre-half pairing against Celtic although Adriano Correia was chosen ahead of the Cameroon international against Real Madrid due to his pace.— Supersport

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