Fabregas best bet to lead line over Neymar in Messi’s absence

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In the absence of Lionel Messi, Neymar may be the obvious replacement in the leading central striker role for Barcelona for the Champions League game with Celtic, but Cesc Fabregas looks the better choice to ensure an away win.

If there has been any fault with Neymar so far since joining Barcelona, it has been the lack of composure in his finishing. He has one goal in seven appearances in all competitions, despite averaging over two shots in each fixture.

His strengths have been his dribbling, his eye for a killer pass and winning free-kicks and these attributes certainly look a better fit in the wider areas, where he will profit from more space.

Meanwhile, the wide left position is one where he is used to playing for Brazil.

Fabregas often started as the lone striker on the rare occasion Messi was unable to take to the field last season, when Barcelona won six of seven games. The only defeat came in the 3-0 home reverse to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Fabregas made an immediate impression as Messi’s stand-in with a hat-trick in the 5-0 thumping of Real Mallorca, while he got the only goal against Levante and was on target against Malaga.

He also leads the Barcelona ranks this season with six league assists and tops the charts for successful through passes.

Fabregas’ ability to drop off into space may also be of use, with Celtic likely to remain compact and keep players behind the ball.

This will increase the pressure on Neymar and Pedro to break into the space vacated by Fabregas if he can drag defenders with him, assuming these two start in the wide forward positions.

Of all of the probable Barcelona front three, it is Pedro that looks the smartest bet to be on target given his penchant for breaking into space behind defenders, with a price of 9/2 to bag the opener and 6/5 to strike at any time in the 90 minutes.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.