Celtic bid to lift away curse

Celtic must quickly find a cure for their European travel sickness as Tuesday's UEFA Champions League match at classy Spanish outfit Villarreal could be crucial to their hopes of reaching the last 16 stage for the third successive season.

Gordan Strachan's team drew 0-0 with Danish outfit AaB Aalborg in Glasgow, and that setback puts them under more pressure to get something in Spain.

Celtic are certainly capable of turning anyone over at home with the backing of their passionate fans, but their European away problems are well documented, with 14 defeats and one draw from their five Champions League group campaigns.

Villarreal, runners-up to Real Madrid in the Spanish league last season, started with a 0-0 draw at defending champions Manchester United and are unbeaten in their domestic league, where they lie second behind Valencia on goal difference.

"Villarreal have been steadily building up to being one of Europe's top sides," Strachan said. "When you look through their squad, you see they have top-quality South American players and that draw at Old Trafford tells you a great deal about their quality.

"Obviously, we will have to take into account what they will be trying to do in the game and there will be times when it will be as much about trying to stop Villarreal as it will be about what we are trying to do ourselves. If we can get a draw there that would be great, but we'd love a win."

Celtic sit second in the Scottish top-flight, three points back from city rivals Rangers, and will hope in-form Greek forward Georgios Samaras, signed from Manchester City, can lift their away curse.

"Big Sammy (Samaras) is unstoppable at the moment," purred Strachan. "When front players get like that, you leave them to get on with it and just let it roll. I'm really pleased for the lad, because he's such a great player to coach."

Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in their debut campaign back in 2006, falling to Arsenal after Juan Roman Riquelme dramatically had a late penalty saved by Jens Lehmann.

Argentine Riquelme has since gone, as has Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan, now at Atletico Madrid. But Spain's UEFA EURO 2008 hero Marcos Senna is still at Villarreal, and he is surrounded by other class performers.

Veteran French winger Robert Pires, Spanish international Santiago Cazorla, Turkish hot-shot Nihat and former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi give Villarreal real options going forward, and they are a joy to watch at times.

I think that Barcelona and Villarreal are the two most entertaining teams to watch (in the Spanish first division)
Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini on his side's quality

"I have a lot of respect for Real Madrid after their 85 points last year, but ," said Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini in an interview with daily Marca.

Celtic have played at El Madrigal before, in a UEFA Cup quarter-final in 2004, and that game ended in Villarreal's favour, with the home side defeating Celtic 2-0 to progress.

In general, Spain has not been a happy hunting ground for Celtic, who lost the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville and tasted a 1-0 defeat in Barcelona in last season's competition, when they were ousted 4-2 on aggregate at the last 16 stage.

Everything points to a Villarreal win, but Celtic have to end their away jinx some time, and Tuesday would be a great time for Strachan's side.