Superstar forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are expected to be in the starting lineup when Barcelona and Celtic meet in Saturday’s duel with the Catalans at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. While the tune-up to the upcoming season is a way for both clubs to test their fitness, and for fans to catch a glimpse of Messi and Suarez's early form, it will also provide an opportunity for the Catalans to face a team that has has some success against them.
Other than their most recent 6-1 Champions League loss almost three years ago, Celtic has largely given Spanish titans Barcelona many troubles over the years. Barcelona manhandled the Scottish side behind Neymar’s hat trick during the UCL group stages back in December 2013, but the four previous matches dating all the back to 2008 were all decided by a goal with Celtic stunning the Catalans 2-1 behind Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt’s goals.
However, with new boss Brendan Rodgers at the helm, another uneven result may be at hand as Celtic are facing a number of injuries in the back line.The list of knocks includes recently acquired defender Kolo Toure, a free transfer from Liverpool, and he’s unlikely to make his debut until Celtic faces Inter Milan on Aug. 3, according to Scottish Daily Record. Instead, Efe Ambrose and Eoghan O’Connell are likely to start against the Catalans loaded attack.
"Kolo is still working, fitness-wise, so he will stay back and do some extra work,” team assistant John Kennedy told the Daily Record. "It’s probably a bit early for him to play tomorrow so we think if he stays at home he can get a few extra sessions fitness wise and then we’ll have a look at that and assess that on Monday.”
Toure’s presence will be important come Wednesday, when the Hoops meet Astana in the second league of Champions League qualifying, and Rodgers is likely to hold back some for the meaningful match.
The Catalans and manager Luis Enrique, coming off a second straight La Liga title run, will make their preseason debut and next face Leicester City and Liverpool in ICC action before meeting Sevilla for the UEFA Super Cup.
Since they’ve yet to take the field this summer, Enrique’s starting XI might be difficult to predict, but he’s likely to work in new acquisitions like French defenders Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti.
Most recently, the Catalans sold off Adriano Correia to Turkish side Besiktas, and defender Jeremy Mathieu could have joined him but declined the overture and told reporters he wants to stay despite Digne and Umtiti likely to challenge him for pitch time.
"Players are coming at my position, but it doesn't matter to me," Mathieu said according to ESPNFC. "Last year I had [Javier] Mascherano and [Thomas] Vermaelen. I do my job and what is asked of me. And last year I played all I wanted. I will try to help them in any way I can, but each player has to compete for his spot on the team."
Start Time: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN (USA); TV3 (Spain); Sky Sports 1/HD (United Kingdom); NOW TV UK (Ireland)
Live Stream: ESPN3
G: Jordi Masip, Jose Suarez, Josep Martinez
D: Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu, Martin Montoya, Borja Lopez, Marlon, Nili, Jose Antonio Martinez
MF: Arda Turna, Denis Suarez, Sergi Samper, Gerard Gumbau, Alex Carbonell, Carles Alena, Jesus Alfaro, Juan Camara
F: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristian Tello, Rafa Mujica, Munir
G: Craig Gordon, Logan Bailly, Leo Fasan
D: Emilio Izaguirre, Efe Ambrose, Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata, Saidy Janko, Eoghan O'Connell, Erik Sviatchenko, Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney
MF: Nir Bitton, Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, Kris Commons, Gary Mackay-Steven, Ryan Christie, Tom Logic, Scott Allan, Kristoffer Ajer, Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Liam Henderson, Stefan Johansen
F: Leigh Griffiths, Nadir Ciftci, Patrick Roberts, Moussa Dembele