Barcelona's defensive lapses give Neil Lennon reason to hope for Celtic



Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, spoke of going into tonight's game against Barcelona in "hope more than expectation" against a rival expert in "laying to waste the best-laid plans" of their opponents. But as a spectator at the Riazor on Saturday night he saw Barcelona score five more goals against Deportivo la Coruna to continue their near perfect start to the season – they have only dropped two points so far – but also witnessed four goals going past Barça keeper Victor Valdes.

If there is a difference between Pep Guardiola's Barcelona and that of his former No 2, Tito Vilanova, it is one of statistics more than style. At this point last season Barça had only conceded four goals. After eight games this term they have let in 11, with three scored by their own players.

"Injuries cannot be the only justification," said Vilanova. He has seen the first-choice back four from the Guardiola years become unavailable one player at a time. Dani Alves, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have all joined Eric Abidal on the sidelines. Vilanova will name a defence that contains three full-backs and a converted midfielder against Celtic tonight. He said: "The players that come in are still Barcelona players; we need to concede fewer goals. What is encouraging is that we are outscoring everyone else so the goals conceded are not costing us points."

Asked if he would prefer to win 5-4 more than 1-0 he erred, with a smile, towards the former, but knows should Leo Messi ever dry up – he is now four goals from Pele's record haul of 75 goals in one calendar year achieved in 1959 – then the back door will have to be shut.

Lennon mentioned the word "speed" on more than one occasion yesterday and Vilanova noted the counter-attacking football that caught out Spartak Moscow in the previous round of matches. "We expect them to defend in their own half and try to attack us with pace on the counter attack," he said.

Lennon, when asked if he saw a different Barça under their new coach, said: "Watching them against Deportivo it seems to have been a seamless transition but how he deals with the first crisis will be the test."

Part of the wisdom behind handing Vilanova the baton after Guardiola called time on his four years in charge was that he coached Messi when the Argentine was a 13-year-old and Messi remains the focal point of the team post-Pep.

"Better teams than us have tried and failed to stop him. We just have to hope he has an off day," said Lennon, who is unlikely to change a 4-5-1 formation that was successful in Moscow.

Orange and lemon strip turns sour

It will go down as the strip that was so bad, even one of the best teams in history couldn't carry it off. Barcelona's new away kit this season is locally referred to as the "Calippo shirt" after the orange and lemon ice lolly – if only it were as popular.

The club will ditch it at the end of 2012-13 and replace it with a shirt based on the yellow-and red-stripes of the Catalan flag. One Madrid commentator quipped at the weekend: "Barça feel they were hard done by the refereeing decisions – maybe their shirts offended him."

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

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?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style