Celtic seek solace in home comforts

The list of the fallen on Champions League nights at the place they call Paradise reads like a who’s who of European football.

Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Manchester United, FC Porto and many others have visited Celtic Park this century only to leave empty-handed.

As Celtic prepare to face Manchester City on Wednesday night, they will seek to rekindle the spirit of those magical nights to extinguish the memory of that 7-0 drubbing against Barcelona on matchday one.

Despite recent travails Celtic’s home record in the Champions League proper (group stage and beyond) is still quietly impressive. The Bhoys have won 17, drawn five and lost only five of their home games, excluding qualifiers, encompassing eight group stage qualifications and three progressions to the last sixteen.

By contrast, the nouveau riche Citizens are taking part in just their sixth campaign.

Such has been the frequency of Celtic’s visits to the promised land of the group stages, that three of those defeats have been against Barcelona whom the Bhoys have developed something of a running if friendly feud this century.

Celtic have won all three of their European matches at Parkhead so far this season. The overall record in the last couple of seasons since returning to Parkhead after a brief sojourn to Murrayfield while their home was being used for the Commonweath Games is a moderately less impressive 8-2-4.

“I’ve been fortunate to play in some great stadiums in Europe with Barcelona but none compare to Celtic.” – Leo Messi

Eleven of those were presided over the unlamented Ronny Deila and Celtic under Brendan Rodgers are a very different proposition.

Celtic captain Scott Brown told the club website that it is essential his side erase the memory of that shocking night at the Camp Nou as quickly as possible.

“We have to get that out of our mind early doors and believe we are good enough to be in the competition and that we’re good enough to get something at home, especially in front of those fans,” he said. “When they are supporting us, it’s incredible, especially on Champions League nights.

“We’re going to have to work hard as a team and defend a lot better than we did in the last Champions League game, along with being composed on the ball and taking our chances if we get them.”

Of course the influx of television cash into the top leagues has extended seismically the gap between elites and also-rans that Celtic and Scottish football has fought so doggedly to bridge.

Having won four of their last six away matches, drawing and losing one, City will not fear Celtic Park.

Yet Celtic Park on European nights is a very special place. You can read what the greats of the game think about it here.

Overall Celtic have won seven, drawn five and lost six matches against English opposition in UEFA competition and, in nine matches, only Arsenal and Nottingham Forest have won at Celtic Park.

Ahead of Wednesday’s game, City are heavy favourites, but so were Machester United, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan and many, many others.

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