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'It's not nice to lose six . . . but that's what it's like'

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Terry Butcher expects a reaction from Celtic
Terry Butcher expects a reaction from Celtic

That was the thought which flashed through Terry Butcher's mind as he watched Celtic being humbled at Camp Nou, but alarm bells were ringing too.

While a fire alarm forced players, media and staff to briefly evacuate Hibernian's East Mains training ground yesterday, the sirens will be figurative tomorrow as Butcher and his side prepare for a potential domestic backlash after one of the most embarrassing European nights in the Parkhead club's history.

Having said that, it is not the first time the 54-year-old has been in this situation: Butcher's Motherwell hosted Celtic in their first fixture after the 5-0 Champions League humiliation by Artmedia Bratislava in July 2005. The turmoil looked like being extended until a 90th-minute Craig Beattie goal earned a 4-4 draw. "They were jammy buggers," recalled Butcher. "We were 4-3 up with a minute to go then bloody Craig Beattie scored . . . not that I remember it well.

"In the recent past when Celtic have suffered a bad result in Europe they've always bounced back well. For Celtic, [the Barcelona game] was like 'welcome to our world' because that is what it's like when we play Celtic sometimes. It's not nice to lose six goals and it's not nice that they could have conceded more. They will be hurting and judging by Neil [Lennon]'s comments, he'll be hurting too. He will demand a response on Saturday."

You do not have to venture into ancient history to find a Butcher triumph at Parkhead - his Inverness Caledonian Thistle side won 1-0 there last November, and drew 2-2 in Glasgow earlier in this campaign - but while Celtic's frailties were ruthlessly exploited by the Catalans in midweek, the Englishman mounts a staunch defence both of Celtic's Champions League performances and the league in which they play. After all, their domestic form in the lead-up to shipping six goals at Camp Nou produced 12 goals without reply in away matches at Hearts and Motherwell.

"I don't think it does reflect badly," said Butcher. "They [Celtic] had to get through three qualifying rounds to get to the group stages. The group they were in was very competitive with three other previous winners. So it was a difficult group and with the squad of players [Lennon] had this year compared to last year it was always going to be a difficult challenge for them.

"It's disappointing but any team can lose like that to Barcelona, they are just an incredible machine. And even with so many players out they are still well capable of punishing any team in Europe by that amount. It was a one-off performance. If there had to be a resolution hanging on the result from Celtic's point of view it might have been totally different. But as it was they were out of Europe anyway and Barcelona needed a point, which was probably the worst thing from Celtic's point of view.

"And in relation to the Scottish game, I am really annoyed when people say it's a damning verdict on Scottish football. That is totally wrong. Scottish football is a unique place, a unique environment we work in. And what Celtic do in Europe is the icing on the cake for our league. Our league is very competitive, you ask the players who are in it, you ask the people who take part in it. It's a great place to work and a great place to enjoy football."

If Barcelona have a wealth of different options in their squad, Butcher is also envious of the players Lennon has at his disposal. The suspended Emilio Izaguirre is likely to return, and Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons could start after being benched in midweek. Hibs should have Scott Robertson back, leaving just James McPake, Alex Harris and Paul Heffernan on the injured list.

Butcher, whose usual pre-match email from Hibs' IT department containing a compilation of goals and set pieces dropped into his inbox in the early hours of yesterday, plans on being pro-active at Celtic Park rather than merely protecting their own goal. "You would think it would be the done thing for us to park the bus and it would be a big double decker with the wheels blown off," the manager said. "Judging by the amount of goals we've scored this season, you'd think 0-0 would be the best we could aim for but I never see things like that. When we beat them last season we didn't play defensively. We passed the ball well and the longer it went without Celtic scoring just added to our own belief we could do something.

"The thing about playing Celtic is you will get opportunities to pass the ball and build attacks so players enjoy it more. You do get the ball, and it's the qualities you show when you have the ball which matters. It's about being brave, sharp and alert. I would take a 4-4 and I'd take a 4-3 up with one minute to go. Then I'd bring on every sub I had and park the bus or whatever we needed to do."

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