NEIL LENNON today insisted facing Barcelona at Celtic Park will present his side with an even tougher challenge than tackling them at the Nou Camp.
The Parkhead manager is bracing himself for his biggest test since taking over the hot-seat as he gets set to go head-to-head with the Spanish giants in the Champions League tomorrow night.
After narrowly missing out on a shock result in Spain a fortnight ago when a 94th-minute goal from Jordi Alba handed Barca a 2-1 victory, expectation levels among the Celtic fans have risen dramatically.
Lennon, however, believes his team will have to perform even better at home than they did on their travels to have any chance of pushing what is arguably the best team in the world just as close.
"In a way, the game tomorrow evening will be a more difficult one for us than the match at the Nou Camp," explained Lennon. "Barcelona regularly play better and enjoy more convincing results away from home.
"Part of the reason for that is that teams tend to open up a bit more against them when they're at home as home as opposed to playing a more defensive-minded game at the Nou Camp.
"And when you give the world-class players Barcelona possess space and time in the final third then there is only going to be one outcome.
"So, with that in mind, it could be a tougher test for us this week than it was over in Spain."
As if the challenge of facing such a formidable team wasn't great enough for Lennon and his players, the Celtic manager finds himself with several injury concerns ahead of the game.
But he is keeping his fingers crossed he is fortunate enough to include Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras in his starting line-up.
He added: "Samaras is a very important player for us in Europe. He presents us with an out ball we don't really have if he isn't available. So we are hoping he is fit in time for the game and we'll be giving him every chance.
"It's the same with Gary, but we are hopeful he can make it. When you are playing Barcelona you want as many of your key players available as possible.
Meanwhile, Barca defender Gerard Pique has been given the green light to return to action after injury and has been included in the Catalan side's squad for Glasgow.
Pique has not played since suffering a foot injury against Spartak Moscow on September 19, but is now available again for coach Tito Vilanova, who has included the Spain international in a 20-man squad for tomorrow's clash.
Pique's central defensive partner Carles Puyol is still missing through injury though, as are Adriano and Thiago Alcantara, while Sergio Busquets is suspended.