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Barca stars praise Celtic atmosphere

Barcelona's Tito Vilanova and Xavi Hernandez were full of praise for the atmosphere inside Celtic Park after the Catalans were defeated 2-1 in Wednesday evening's Champions League Group G clash.

• Blog: 125 years of history

A capacity 60,000 crowd at Celtic Park cheered the home side throughout, on an occasion packed with meaning and emotion as the Scottish club marked its 125th anniversary.

Although both disappointed to have lost the game, despite dominating in terms of chances and possession, the Catalan coach and player were full of praise for atmosphere inside the stadium and the support given by Celtic's supporters to their players.

"The stadium was spectacular," Vilanova told Canal Plus. "I have been lucky in my career to have been to many grounds, but I have never seen anything like it. This was their 125th birthday and I wish them many more years."

Xavi, who played in a similar atmosphere when Barca exited the UEFA Cup at Celtic Park in 2004, was also generous in his praise for Celtic's fans.

"(The stadium) is a marvel, the fans, the people, how they support their team," he added. "It is an example for every team."

The praise from Barca's stars was in keeping with the close links between the two clubs, which developed further in the build-up to the game. Barcelona published a photo on their website on Wednesday morning showing Xavi, along with teammates Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, posing with Celtic's 125-year anniversary kit, while a Barca delegation attended a commemorative religious ceremony organised by the Scottish team on Tuesday.

On the day of the game Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubi led a conference at Glasgow University's Randolph Hall which was headlined: 'Barça: sports, culture and education'. This was followed by a concert given by Catalan folk-pop outfit Els Amics de les Arts.

Celtic also showed their appreciation of the visitors' cultural history - and possibly political future - by flying a Catalan flag on the stadium roof during the game.

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