“Do Not Man Mark Lionel Messi” – 52YO Legend Reflects on Beating FC Barcelona 11 Years After Historic UCL Clash

Published 01/23/2024, 10:53 PM EST

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The Barcelona of the early 2010s was an unbeatable side in Europe. With players like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez & Dani Alves in the ranks, soccer was truly effortless for the Catalan side. Hence, the entire world was shocked when a Celtic side, much inferior on paper, upset the Spanish giants 2-1 in the 2012 UEFA Champions League group stage. However, that result wasn’t a fluke, and the Assistant Manager of Celtic at the time, Johan Mjallby recently spoke of the match and cunning plan to stop Messi, which was surprisingly, to ‘not follow him.’

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As per Mjallby, expectations before the game were quite high, as the side was expected to win at home, regardless of whether it was Barcelona or Real Madrid. The equation to stopping Barcelona was reducing Lionel Messi’s influence and Mjallby along with manager Neil Lennon, had the ideal strategy in mind. Mjallby explained, “Obviously Neil as manager was really it was important to drill our place to don’t man mark Lionel Messi. It doesn’t matter where he goes, DO NOT FOLLOW HIM.” Mjallby had also taken note of what interested Lionel Messi!

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The Swedish coach revealed, “He wasn’t really that involved you know in the buildups or he wants the ball when he when he’s interested.” He also highlighted how Lionel Messi has wandered a lot on the field and how this tricked a lot of teams into following the Argentine maestro. However, the Swede gave his team a different set of instructions.

He explained, “Make sure we are really narrow, compact. If we’re going to let them play through us, it needs to be outside of our fullbacks or was usually the wide midfielders because we were eight in the line.” Mjallby was quick to admit that Barcelona was the better side technically & soccer-wise. However, as per him, Celtic’s side had their strengths in set pieces & counter-attacks.

Interestingly, both Celtic goals came via a set piece & a counterattack. Hence, his plan worked like a charm, although Lionel Messi did score for Barcelona. However, the blue-print was already previously laid out in Celtic’s away game at Camp Nou.

Celtic had managed to negate Lionel Messi in their prior meeting!

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Before the memorable 2-1 win, Celtic faced Barca at Camp Nou. Although they lost 2-1, it took an injury-time winner from Jordi Alba to win the game for Barcelona. However, the big talking point was Lionel Messi.

The 8-time Ballon d’Or winner had an imperious 2012 where he racked up 91 goals in the year. However, this was a rare match where he was not at his best. Interestingly, Celtic had taken the lead in the 18th minute and if it wasn’t for the individual brilliance of Jordi Alba, Aaron Lenon and Co. would have sealed the game and an eventual double over Blaugrana.

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What is your opinion of the Celtic’s tactic in the match? Tell us in the comments below.

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Written by:

Adithya Narayanan

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Soccer was the first sport I played in my life. It turned out to be my favorite one by an absolute mile. In my younger days, I became a Liverpool fan but it was only when Jurgen Klopp arrived that my passion for the game intensified.
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Edited by:

Daniel D'Cruz

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