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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Bonner urges Hoops to use long ball tactics at the Nou Camp

The ex-Celtic stopper believes the Scottish champions could have some joy against Barcelona’s depleted backline.

Bonner and Phil Babb yesterday.
Bonner and Phil Babb yesterday.

PACKIE BONNER BELIEVES his former side Celtic may get joy against a weakened Barcelona defence by pumping in high balls.

The Scottish champions are in Catalunya tonight for their Champions League group stage match with the La Liga giants and are high on confidence after beating Spartak Moscow on the last outing.

This will no doubt be a tougher test for Neil Lennon’s side, however. While Barca may be missing Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Dani Alves at the back, Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas could all start.

Bonner, who made over 600 appearances for the Hoops during a ten-year spell, says putting the likes of Javier Mascherano and Alex Song under pressure could be Celtic’s best plan of attack.

Speaking at an ESPN event to promote their coverage of the Barclays Premier League and the Clydesdale Bank SPL, the 52-year-old said:  I’ve watched Celtic recently. They’re playing very well at the moment, very strong in the Scottish League.

“They were so far ahead of St Mirren in every department — they looked strong and physical and were playing good football — but when you come up against Barcelona, it’s a different kettle of fish.

Really it’s about your game when you don’t have the ball, your concentration and how you set yourself up defensively. Then if you do win the ball and they put you under pressure right away, can you have a release valve? I think he’ll probably go with Samaras up front.

“When you win the ball, sometimes you can’t go forward because they’re putting pressure on you. You’ve got to go back and play it out or play it long. I don’t advocate the long ball game, even though I played in Jack Charlton’s day.

“On this occasion, maybe a longer ball is the best option. If you try to play out of the back, Barcelona could nip it and kill you off.”

Celtic ended a four-year absence by making the group stages this season and are looking to progress to the knockout rounds from a group which also possesses Spartak Moscow and Benfica.

And while Bonner thinks avoiding defeat tonight will put them in with a shout, he adds that returning to Europe’s top competition was the main priority and anything else is a “bonus”.

“If they come away with some sort of result, if they got a point, that would be a huge, huge achievement. If they can come away and stop Messi scoring, it would be a huge achievement.

“This is a bonus for Celtic. They’ve had their points against Spartak. They had their point against Benfica, even though at that time we felt they should have won that game to give themselves a chance. That Spartak result has given them a real, real chance.

Anything’s a bonus here, even going out and enjoying the game and building on the experience of going to the Nou Camp. Tonight’s all about positive for Celtic rather than thinking about anything negative.”

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