Celtic put the Scottish Premier League to rest over the weekend, beating Rangers 5-1 in the first top flight Old Firm match since Rangers were liquidated and sent to the fourth tier. With that settled, new manager Brendan Rodgers will be looking to prove he can make Celtic a relevant side in Europe again after bolstering the club with EPL veterans and prospects. He'll face no tougher first test than visiting Camp Nou and the prospect of holding Messi, Suarez and Neymar at bay. Complicating that task, striker Leigh Griffiths, who scored 40 goals last season, will miss the match with a hamstring injury. After scoring a perfect hattrick over the weekend, perhaps Moussa Dembele can further his dream start for Celtic by surprising Camp Nou. It would be the second time in a week, after Barca stumbled to a 2-1 loss at home against newly promoted Alavés. While they gave their stars some rest for that match, it shows that they cannot afford to not take Celtic seriously.
With the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar up front, Barcelona are automatic contenders for the Champions League. Last season, they managed a domestic double, but lost 3-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals to eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid. Their starting eleven will be largely the same, bolstered by centerback Samuel Umtiti, who starred for France at the Euros and a few other up-and-comers to fill out the squad. After satiating their appetite for domestic silverware and watching two league rivals face off in last year’s final, expect La Blaugrana to make winning the Champions League priority number one. Plus, after a season of playing in sacrilegious horizontal stripes, they’re back to their traditional vertical.
By beating Israeli side Hapoel Be'er Sheva in their playoff, Celtic are back in the group stage after missing out for two straight years. Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers began to put his stamp on the club by signing former Fulham hot prospect Moussa Dembele, despite interest from various EPL clubs, along with EPL journeyman Scott Sinclair and two time Premier League winning defender, Kolo Toure. Striker Leigh Griffiths will again lead the line after scoring 40 goals in all competitions last season. After having a few comfortable years in the Scottish Premier League without rivals Rangers, proving themselves in the Champions League is necessary to be seen as more than just a big fish in a very small pond.
Averages nearly a goal per game for Blaugrana.
Scored 40 goals in 35 appearances last season on his way to winning the European Golden Shoe.