GLASGOW, Scotland, Sep 13- It’s the kind of player Victor Wanyama is that he regrets the added-time winner Barcelona nicked off Celtic in 2012 as much, perhaps more, than he celebrates his famous goal when the Scottish champions beat Messi and Co in the return group game.
Celtic’s modern record at the Camp Nou, irrespective of the Spanish champions having lost 2-1 at home to newly-promoted Alaves on Saturday night, states clearly that taking a point or points isn’t a ludicrous aim.
Set aside the last time out, which was a 6-1 thrashing, and there have been two single-goal defeats and two draws when the sides have met at the Camp Nou in the Champions League era.
Wanyama, with Alan Thomson and Tony Watt, is one of only three men in history to score in a winning Celtic side against Barça and he has total recall of his two matches against the Catalans – because he was fuelled by total concentration.
“You go to the Camp Nou and the night before the match, when you train, you gaze up and see the vast high stands and think you’ve got an amazing chance to do something special here.
“None of our players were like this but I know that some footballers get scared by this kind of scenario. Some players get doubts. But I was cool and calm and just itching to get playing the next night against a great side full of world-class players.”
“It’s vital to have that in you if you are going to do well against Barcelona. Speaking personally playing in Old Firm matches helped me prepare.”
“Coming to the Camp Nou was a class apart but when you’ve faced a derby match in Glasgow you see and hear things which teach you about noise, about pressure, about coping with what’s going on around you and teach you to concentrate.”
“The special atmosphere in an Old Firm match is particular but this match, at the Camp Nou had similar importance, similar pressure and everyone was paying attention to it.
“We knew what we’d got ourselves into by drawing Barcelona. But I don’t think any of us were thinking about the prospect of facing Iniesta and Xavi and Messi at their best – we were so, so concentrated on our tactical tasks.”
“We had, then, a good, aggressive coach in Lenny and he gave us really detailed instructions about when we pressed, when we let them have the ball and the message, if you take it in general, was to try to ensure that firstly the ball didn’t reach Iniesta or Messi or Xavi but, secondly, if it did that they never had ‘easy’ posession.”
“The concentration comes because you can’t relax for a second, you can’t think that you are ‘coping’ because players of that quality need very little to turn a match and to break your defending. The point then, and now for Brendan Rodgers’ team, is that it’s a wholly different kind of football than Celtic face in Scotland.
“At that stage I’d never, ever concentrated in a game like we did that night in the Camp Nou.”
He recalls gazing up at the Camp Nou, which from pitch level looks utterly cavernous, and wondering whether he’d even be able to see, let alone hear the travelling Scots.
“I recall asking one of the Barcelona staff where the Celtic fans would be and when they pointed up to the highest part of the stand, up in the sky, I gave up hoping to notice that our fans would be there the next day.
“But, of course, when it came to match day we could hear them all the way from pre kick-off right through the game. It was amazing, crazy!”
Professional footballers give you a variety of answers to this question, about how much ‘extra’ a noisy support can lend to the efforts of a team under pressure.
But Spurs’ Kenyan midfielder is totally sincere in adding that he and his team mates draw strength from noise.
“Both there and at Parkhead when our fans truly were a 12th man it’s vital. When you’re tired or the game’s running away you hear the support and know you have to find more strength more effort. I’d say that by the time the return match came the fans kept us in it.”
“Our fans played a really big role and that’s what they’ll have to do this week in the Camp Nou.”
The degree to which Brendan Rodgers needs to be on his A-game is emphasises by Wanyama’s perception of a major strength back in those 2012 thrillers with Barça.
He attributes much of the success of a narrow defeat and a famous win to Lennon. “The tactical plans, home and away, worked like a treat and that’s important for players to feel that their coach knows the rival, knows what to do.”
“He was also on at us all the time from the touchline and we could hear him, we could get a boost from him – take new instructions. He was great for us.
“The home win was a special night – I’ve still got the match ball from that 2-1 win and the pictures of my goal are all over my walls in London. I was emotional too – it’s normal!”
“The thing I’d say is that Barcelona have changed since I played against them – they are more direct now, they have that brilliant ‘Trident’ up front – they’ve improved a lot.”
“What I like, for Celtic, is that Barcelona don’t try to ‘possess’ the ball as much as before because that’s what can ‘destroy’ you if you are chasing it all night and getting more and more tired. On Tuesday, once we’ve trained (Spurs face Monaco at Wembley) I’ll try to watch the game. I’ll be cheering for my old club.” Wanyama opines.
-By Daily Record–