Barca look to Neymar to revive La Liga fortunes

Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:05am EST
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - With Lionel Messi not due back from injury until next month, Barcelona will be looking to Neymar to add to Wednesday's hat-trick against Celtic and help the champions get back to winning ways in La Liga.

Barca needed a convincing Champions League performance against the Scottish side after consecutive defeats to Ajax Amsterdam and Athletic Bilbao and the Brazil forward responded with his first goals in Europe's elite club competition in a 6-1 romp at the Nou Camp.

Bought from Santos in the close season for a fee of close to 60 million euros ($82.7 million), Neymar had been threatening to explode into life without really delivering and the 21-year-old's performance on Wednesday, when he also assisted a Pedro goal, suggested he may have turned a corner.

Assuming the mantle of Argentine World Player of the Year Messi would be a heavy burden for anyone, let alone a man in his early 20s, but Neymar appears anything but phased by the responsibility.

"I didn't feel any pressure," he told Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.

"We are hoping that after the two bad results this victory will help us in La Liga," he added.

"Two defeats in a row for us meant a big win was very welcome."

Barca's shock reverse at Bilbao, their first of the domestic league campaign, erased their three-point lead at the top over Atletico Madrid and they host fifth-placed Villarreal on Saturday (1900 GMT) in the 16th round of games.   Continued...

Barcelona's Neymar (L) and Celtic's Efe Ambrose challenge for the ball during their Champions League soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Albert Gea