Houllier's men face daunting task at Celtic

LIVERPOOL: Gerard Houllier fears a daunting test in today's UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg when Liverpool face a Celtic side who have not lost at home for 48 matches. 

Martin O'Neill's Scottish champions, who kept hopes of a title hat-trick alive by beating Old Firm rivals Rangers on Saturday, have not lost at Parkhead since 2001. 

Celtic can count home victories in their last nine European ties at Parkhead, against the likes of Juventus, Porto and Liverpool's Champions League foes this season, Valencia and Basel. 

With a 60,000 sell-out guaranteed for today's showdown, Liverpool are sure of a hostile reception. 

“Celtic are a strong side and very consistent. They are a huge club with a huge base of fans as well,” Houllier said. 

“They played extremely well when they faced Blackburn earlier in the UEFA Cup this season and the three wins they have against Blackburn, Celta Vigo and Stuttgart were impressive.” 

Liverpool will still be without Emile Heskey and Stephane Henchoz at Parkhead, but Houllier believes the stomach bug that forced Steven Gerrard off against Bolton on Saturday will have cleared up. 

Victory over Bolton was Liverpool's third on the run and Houllier believes his team head for Glasgow brimming with confidence. 

“If you win, you feel less tired than when you lose. Winning is a habit, playing together is a habit,” he said. 

“For the last two months we have been better and team strength and attitude and spirit has strengthened through our difficult period.” 

O'Neill said Saturday's win over Rangers had boosted morale. 

“The result was well deserved and it puts us in a great frame of mind for the game against Liverpool,” he said. 

“The Liverpool game is a separate tournament and a separate set of circumstances. However, it is better for us to go into the game having beaten Rangers than having lost at the weekend. 

“There is always pressure on us to win games, but there was even more on us going into this particular match because, if we had lost, Rangers would have gone nine points clear.” 

Celtic's Swedish striker Henrik Larsson is fit to face Liverpool in but French winger Didier Agathe has been ruled out. 

The Frenchman faces four to six weeks on the sidelines after a scan showed a hamstring tear. – AFP 

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