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Football: Mart tells fans not to panic.

Byline: By MARK GUIDI

MARTIN O'NEILL last night begged the Celtic supporters to show patience with his side in Tuesday's Champions League showdown against Barcelona.

The Hoops gaffer is desperate to keep possession and will urge his troops to play square balls or back passes.

It might not be attractive for the fans but O'Neill reckons it's the best way to get a result.

He said: 'In the first half against Rangers two weeks ago we passed the ball as well as in any other Old Firm game I've been involved in.

'I could hear one or two shouts from the stands to get the ball into the penalty area quicker.

'People can become frustrated but they have to try to understand what we are trying to do.

'In the early stages on Tuesday it will be important my players put passes together instead of just putting the ball high into the box.

'The players know the crowd get a little anxious - the only player they never got anxious with was Henrik Larsson.'

Celtic beat the Catalans in last season's UEFA Cup but Barca have since landed former Hoops hero Larsson, Porto playmaker Deco and Monaco's Ludovic Giuly.

O'Neill said: 'They have improved big style.'

Larsson makes an emotional return to Parkhead on Tuesday but the Celtic gaffer believes the Swede will find it tough against Bobo Balde and Stan Varga.

He said: 'They had a few battles with Henrik in training over the years and this will be their chance to play against him for real.'

O'Neill is sweating over the fitness of Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton but hopes the Englishman's hamstring injury will clear up.

He said: 'It would be a big blow if Chris wasn't fit. He is naturally fit and I hope he is able to play.'

CAPTION(S):

O'Neill: Pleading for patience
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 12, 2004
Words:308
Previous Article:Football: SIMPLY THE BEST; Barca legend Johan Cruyff says Larsson is better than all the rest at Nou Camp CELTIC v BARCELONA Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm.
Next Article:Football: WIN TICKETS FOR BIG ONE.


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