Barça help injured Larsson with new deal

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The Independent Football

Henrik Larsson is once again optimistic about his future after Barcelona, who host Celtic in the Champions' League tonight, pledged to honour a one-year extension to his contract - despite a knee injury which should keep him out for at least six months.

Henrik Larsson is once again optimistic about his future after Barcelona, who host Celtic in the Champions' League tonight, pledged to honour a one-year extension to his contract - despite a knee injury which should keep him out for at least six months.

Larsson feared for his career because of knee ligament damage he sustained in Saturday's 3-0 defeat of Real Madrid. But the Barcelona striker said yesterday: "I'm feeling much more upbeat about things. It's a serious injury I've suffered, but it's all part of the game."

A club spokesman said: "Barcelona want the player to concentrate on recovering from the injury without having to worry about his contractual situation." Barça said that the one-year contract that Larsson had signed would have been extended if he had played 60 per cent of matches, but even though that is now impossible they have renewed the deal anyway.

Barcelona also haveThiago Motta, Edmilson and Gabri all out for the season with similar problems to Larsson's.

Injuries aside, Barça are buoyant. A draw will be enough for them to book a place in the last 16. Unlike Barcelona, Celtic failed against their greatest rivals at the weekend when they lost 2-0 to Rangers, with sendings-off for both Alan Thompson - which Celtic appealed against yesterday - and Chris Sutton.

Martin O'Neill's side will need a better performance if they are to win and be in the hunt for a third-place finish and a Uefa Cup place. Celtic managed a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp in eliminating Barcelona from the Uefa Cup last March. But while the home side are stronger, Celtic appear fragile, particularly in defence, having conceded nine goals in four Champions' League games.

Barcelona (probable, 4-4-1-1): Vales; Belletti, Puyol, Oleguer, Van Bronckhorst; Deco, Xavi, Marquez, Giuly; Ronaldinho; Eto'o

Celtic (probable, 4-4-2): Hedman; Agathe, Baldé or Valgaeren, Varga, McNamara; Lennon, Petrov, Sutton, Thompson; Hartson, Camara

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

¿ Police are investigating claims that Celtic's Neil Lennon made comments to fans and spat on a Rangers scarf which was thrown on to the side of the pitch during Saturday's Old Firm match.

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