- Copy link
FC Barcelona are already in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League as group winners but they still have one game left in the initial phase of the competition away from home at Bayer Leverkusen. The Catalans are into the knock out stages for the 12th successive season with the Bundesliga club looking to make it to the last 16 for the third year in a row. To do that Roger Schmidt’s side will need to beat Barça and hope AS Roma drop points at home to BATE Borisov in Group E other fixture on Wednesday at 8.45pm CET.
Luis Enrique named his squad for the final group game in this season’s Champions League on Monday, immediately following training at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The coach has decided to rest Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué, both players have stayed behind in Barcelona along with the injured Jérémy Mathieu, Sergi Roberto, Douglas and Rafinha.
B team players Sergi Samper, Juan Cámara, Gerard Gumbau and Wilfrid Kaptoum have all been included in a 19 man squad which is as follows: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Masip, Rakitic, Sergio, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sandro, Adriano, Vermaelen, Samper, Gumbau, Cámara and Kaptoum.
Luis Enrique suffered a setback in training on Tuesday at the BayArena when Neymar picked up a groin injury in the final session before Wednesday’s fixture and now seems unlikely to be involved against the Germans.
Bayer boss Schmidt is without the injured Croatian defender Tin Jedvaj, the 20 year old has been restricted to just one appearance as a substitute this season due to a persistent thigh injury. Also out is midfielder Lars Bender as he recently underwent ankle surgery and will not return until the New Year. Striker Javier Hernández is in the squad and the Mexican who has had spells with Manchester United and Real Madrid is in great form with 11 goals in his last 10 games for Leverkusen.
Luis Enrique appeared before the press on Tuesday in Germany ahead of the game against Bayer Leverkusen and revealed: “We have been offered the chance to enjoy a great match, we don’t have to be worried about the result, we have to just play our own game. I consider it a great opportunity,”
Bayer boss Roger Schmidt also answered questions from the media, admitting the size of the task facing his team: “Barcelona are in great shape. With Messi being fit again, they are even stronger – he is the best player in the world after all. There is no way to completely deny him.”
Barça’s 1-1 draw at the weekend in Mestalla against Valencia saw their eight game winning streak in all competitions come to an end. Luis Suárez’s goal in that match was his 12th in his last eight matches in a Barça shirt and only confirmed that he is in the best form of his career since joining the blaugranes. Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat at Hertha Berlin on Saturday in contrast was their third defeat in their five matches in the Bundesliga. Roger Schmidt’s side have won just once in their last seven in all competitions and have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10. The Germans have not won in Group E since a 4-1 win over BATE Borisov at home on match day 1 back in mid-September.
On 29 September Barça had to come from behind to beat Bayer 2-1 at Camp Nou. Greek defender Papadopoulos gave the visitors the lead in the first and only two goals in the last 10 minutes from Sergi Roberto and Luis Suárez allowed Luis Enrique’s team to take their first win in Group E. That win was Barça’s sixth in a row against the Werkself, a run that stretches back to November 2002. Bayer have only ever beaten Barça once in four games at the BayArena, that victory coming in the Champions League in September. Goals from Yildiray Basturk and Oliver Neuville handed them a 2-1 victory after current Barça boss Luis Enrique had given the visitors a first half lead.
- Copy link