Barcelona on City's minds
Manager and players could pay price over fixation with Barcelona
(Moussa Dembele 3, 47, Raheem Sterling og-20)
MAN CITY 3
(Fernandinho 11, Raheem Sterling 28, Nolito 55)
All was not as it seemed with Pep Guardiola at Celtic Park yesterday morning (Singapore time).
He was present in body, but his mind lay some 1,600 kilometres south-east of Glasgow.
Manchester City also appeared to be driven to distraction by what stood on the horizon.
For both themselves and Guardiola, this season's Champions League campaign has always been geared towards the battle of wills with Barcelona on Oct 19.
As their first two Group C encounters will attest, everything else is white noise.
A breathless six-goal thriller with Celtic was greeted with as much indifference as the steamrollering of Borussia Moenchengladbach a fortnight ago - these are considered distractions.
Ever since Uefa's men in suits pitted Man City against Barcelona, everything has been fixated on the double header with the reigning La Liga champions.
Guardiola has also been guilty of falling into that trap, making no attempts to conceal his excitement when effusively describing his upcoming homecoming as "a gift".
That impending return to the Nou Camp in less than three weeks' time appeared to have got the better of City's players as much as it had the man from Santpedor.
Under Guardiola, City seemed to have gained a reputation as a domineering side against whom scoring more than a solitary goal was an impossible task.
Within 20 minutes, Celtic had turned that into a myth; shortly after the half-time interval, they actually scored a third.
Falling behind was another hallmark which seemed to have become taboo under the Catalan manager, yet on three occasions they suffered the ignominy of chasing down a deficit against the Scottish champions.
They succeeded easily enough, with City never on the back-foot for more than eight minutes at any one time, largely due to the individual brilliance of Raheem Sterling.
But, so far in this tournament, their general preoccupation with facing Luis Enrique's side has been self-evident, both on and off the pitch.
The latest attempt of converting Aleksandar Kolarov to centre back, ahead of John Stones, failed dismally when he was caught out by Moussa Dembele.
Even in the event of Lionel Messi's absence, Luis Suarez and Neymar will still fancy their chances against a defence run ragged by a 20-year-old, who recently made a sidewards step from the English Championship to the top tier of Scottish football.
City were also lacking in other key areas, with Ilkay Guendogan unable to make up for the absence of Kevin de Bruyne, while Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Nolito were all far from their best in an attack where only Sterling shone.
They have gone through the motions before, but never quite like this.
Facing Barcelona again was supposed to be a marker of how far City had evolved under their new manager; how they could finally take the fight to the Champions League elite after years of being derided as new money's never-do-well club in the competition.
A dress rehearsal against a team who had recently been emphatically trounced in Catalonia without reply should have forearmed them for what lies ahead.
Instead it exposed them as being too cocksure and possibly even ill-prepared for the clash with the European giants.
There is a genuine danger that their third visit to the Nou Camp in as many seasons will result in them stumbling around like the giddy, starstruck tourists who flock there daily; happily taking leave of their senses before exiting through the gift shop.
After a Glasgow misadventure, Guardiola has much work to do.
'Celtic can cause anyone problems'
12 Celtic striker Moussa Dembele (above, No. 10) has now scored 12 goals this season. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Two-goal Moussa Dembele claimed Celtic showed their Champions League credentials with their 3-3 draw with Manchester City at Parkhead yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Brendan Rodgers' side went into the game on the back of a 7-0 defeat in Barcelona earlier in the month.
However, any trepidation they may have had facing the Premier League leaders disappeared when the 20-year-old French striker, who raised some eyebrows when he signed for the Scottish champions from Fulham in the summer, gave the Hoops the lead after just three minutes.
After Fernandinho levelled, left back Kieran Tierney's shot deflected off City winger Raheem Sterling, who then equalised again for the visitors.
Dembele netted his 12th goal of the season with less than two minutes of the second half played before Nolito levelled once more in the 55th minute, with City ending the game second by two points to Barcelona - who beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 in Germany - with two Group C fixtures played.
"As a striker, you always want to score goals and I scored two and it's good for the team and good for the club," said Dembele.
"When I signed for Celtic, I knew this team belong in the Champions League and nights like this.
"The fans showed us great support and I'm happy to get the result.
"When we play offensively, we can cause anyone problems and that's what we showed and what we need to do in the next games."
It was quite an experience for City, whose 10-game winning run in all competitions since the start of the season - they were looking to equal Tottenham's 11 at the start of the 1960/61 campaign - came to an end.
Indeed, Dembele's opener saw Pep Guardiola's side behind for the first time since he took over in the summer.
Guardiola expects the race in Group C for the last-16 qualification spots to go down to the final round of matches.
"When the fourth team in the pot are Celtic, you immediately realise how tough it will be to qualify, to go through," he said.
"(It will be like that) to the last game, when we play Celtic at home.
"I said to my players in the beginning, in this group it will be decided if you are able to qualify for the next round in the last game.
"When we play against Barcelona, it will be tough.
"Now is the time to analyse what we did, and we are going to see what happens at Barcelona, and then (against them) at home.
"Of course, we are now second, but we have chances still, so we'll see.
"We are going to recover well, and focus on White Hart Lane (Sunday's Premier League clash with Tottenham).
"We have time to think about Barcelona." - PA Sport.