'Are you kidding me?' Neil Lennon wouldn't fancy facing Barça himself

Celtic coach in jocular mood but deadly serious that his side can repeat their Nou Camp heroics

"Would I have fancied playing in Spain?" Neil Lennon felt the need to repeat the question he was asked yesterday, on the 125th anniversary of the formation of Celtic Football Club, and on the eve of the visit of Barcelona to Celtic Park, two weeks after his side had come within touching distance of a point few had thought remotely possible at the Nou Camp.

"Against this lot?" he said, again coming back with a question.

Finally came an answer, once more with a question. "Are you kidding me?"

There were laughs, but Lennon has learned much from that game, as have his players – that despite the self-deprecating humour, they can actually compete.

Much has since been made of Celtic's lack of possession in the Catalan capital during their 2-1 defeat, but significantly that was not a discussion topic for Tito Vilanova. The Barcelona coach instead chose to focus on Celtic's counter-attacks, set-pieces and spirit. Those will be what Lennon will turn to again – that, and what will be a ferocious atmosphere.

The Celtic manager's assessment never altered. The options open to him (and indeed any manager) when facing Barcelona are perhaps as narrow as they can possibly be. Paco Jemez, the coach of Rayo Vallecano, called Celtic's approach "shameful": he kept faith with his expansive game against Barcelona in La Liga on Sunday and Vallecano lost 5-0.

"You would need to ask him, 'What way did we play?'" said Lennon, on the only occasion yesterday that he seemed riled. "They lost 5-0 at home, so what's it going to be like when they go to the Nou Camp? Are they going to play as open as they played at home? Because it could be 10 then.

"I don't need to vindicate myself there. The team did that for me. I didn't design to go out and play backs-to-the-wall football. That's just the way Barcelona make you play.

"People dismiss the fact that we did score three goals in Moscow. So, if we are defensive away from home, then why didn't Moscow pin us back for long periods of the game? Simply because Barcelona are a superior team to Moscow."

That Gary Hooper is likely to miss out tonight because of a hamstring injury further limits his options, as does the expected absence of James Forrest. Georgios Samaras is expected to play, but he has hardly trained because of an ankle problem. There will be a need, once more, for his men to be stoic, heroic and brave.

"You never know who will be a hero for you," Lennon said. "You hope a night like this will inspire them. There were some monumental performances over there. My goalkeeper, for a start, grew in stature, as did my two full-backs.

"Looking at Samaras I thought he looked really in the mood and took a huge lift from the goal. There is no doubt we have taken a huge amount of encouragement [from the performance], if not the result.

Get Adobe Flash player

"Nothing prepares you for what you are going to come up against. Barcelona might think, 'We really have to turn it on and put this team in their place.' However, it could be great motivation for us that it's still fresh in the mind and still raw with the players that they put so much into it and got nothing from it, and they could go one better this time. I'd never be blasé against this side.

"We're up against it. I watched them play against Benfica last night. Half an hour into the game they were one up with 70 per cent of the possession. So that's what they do to teams. They pass it so well and have complete trust and faith in one another, the way they take the ball under pressure and just know where the other player is – and that's born out of having quality players.

"We couldn't have picked a better fixture to celebrate the 125th anniversary than Barcelona at home in the Champions League. It couldn't have worked out any better.

"It's been a good year for the club and we're proud of this special anniversary. I hope the atmosphere and ambience gets over to the players. I said at the start that I wanted to qualify, [and] my ambitions haven't changed."

How to solve a problem like Barcelona? "You have to play at your very best, you have to be fully concentrated with great intensity... and sometimes even that is not enough."

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?