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Celtic have received a huge boost ahead of their clash with Barcelona after it was revealed that Lionel Messi will miss the clash with the Scottish champions.
Neil Lennon’s side sprung one of the shocks of the tournament last season when they ran out 2-1 winners thanks to Tony Watt’s late goal and chances of a repeat result improved dramatically after Messi injured his hamstring in the 2-0 win over Almeria at the weekend.
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That win saw Barcelona make it seven wins on the trot their best ever start to a season.
The Argentine forward was on the score-sheet in that win and has already opened his account in Europe by virtue of his hat trick in his side’s 4-0 win over Ajax, becoming the first person to score four hat tricks in the competition in the process.
Celtic meanwhile have their own hat trick hero in the shape of Georgios Samaras with the Greek registering a treble in the 5-2 win over Kilmarnock.
Kris Commons also got on the score-sheet and the former Derby man fully expects Barcelona to be wary of the threat posed by Celtic.
“It is going to be difficult but I think it will be very unprofessional of them if they didn’t think that we were a threat,” the midfielder said.
“For us, it is about staying focused and trying to repeat what we did last year.”
Celtic 2-0 losers to AC Milan in round one will be without Steven Mouyokolo, who ruptured his Achilles in training before the Milan clash while in addition to missing Messi Barcelona will once again be without left-back Jordi Alba with Carles Puyol and playmaker Isaac Cuenca unlikely to be risked as they continue their recovery from knee surgery.
In the groups other clash two of Europe’s most successful clubs, Ajax and AC Milan, clash in Amsterdam.
Between the pair they have 11 European Cup’s with Milan winning Europe’s Premier competition on seven occasions three more than Tuesday’s hosts.
The two clubs have made contrasting starts to the season with defending champions Ajax currently second in the Dutch league while Milan have struggled claiming just their 2nd win of the new Serie A season in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Sampdoria.
Milan enjoyed one of their best performances of the season when they knocked out another Dutch side PSV in the UCL qualifiers and they began the group stages with 2-0 win over Celtic.
Massimiliano Allegri is without a number of players for the trip to the Dutch capital with Kaka, Mattia de Sciglio, Matias Silvestre and Giampaolo Pazzini all out although it is expected that Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele Bonera could return.
Mario Balotelli is also likely to feature despite being suspended domestically.
Ajax meanwhile will be without the services of Thulani Serero and Joel Veltman.