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June 27, 2017

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Oh boy, Celtic hope dad's the word for Messi

MADRID -- Celtic's hopes of beating Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday could be decided at a maternity ward rather than in the intimidating atmosphere of Camp Nou, the home of the Catalan giants.

The Spanish side's Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is due to become a father for the first time this week when his girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo, gives birth.

The couple's baby, already known to be a boy who will be named Thiago, was widely expected to arrive at the weekend. That prompted feverish speculation in the Spanish media that Messi would be rested from the team.

"The game against Deportivo (on Saturday) could go down in Messi's history books. Several sources report that the Argentine has the date of 20th October marked on his calendar as the day his first child, Thiago, will enter into the world," claimed Marca sports daily.

"Messi himself has confirmed that his family and that of Antonella are on their way to Barcelona for the occasion."

In the end, baby Thiago decided not to make an appearance just yet and Messi played in the 5-4 win over Deportivo La Coruna, scoring his 21st Barcelona hat-trick which kept his team on top of La Liga.

With or without Messi, Barcelona are in pole position in their European group after back-to-back victories.

They can take a significant step towards qualifying for the last 16 if they come out on top against Celtic. The Scottish club managed a surprise win away to Spartak Moscow in their last game to leave them second on four points.

Despite regular center-halves Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique having spent most of the season in the treatment room, Barca have been a model of efficiency.

Although they haven't reached the peak of recent campaigns in terms of performance, only the El Clasico draw against Real Madrid has stopped them from boasting a perfect winning Liga record.

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