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Luis Enrique’s Barça side are looking for their first win in this season’s Champions League following their 1-1 draw against AS Roma in the opening fixture in Group E. Standing in their way are a Bayer 04 Leverkusen side who won their first game 4-1 at home to BATE Borisov.
The blaugranes trained for the final time on Monday at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. Tuesday’s game at Camp Nou will be their first without the services of Leo Messi following the knee ligament injury he suffered in the 2-1 win at home in the league against Las Palmas. The striker will be out for seven to eight weeks.
Luis Enrique is also having to make do without the injured Rafinha, Adriano, Vermaelen and Bravo, butJordi Alba is fully fit and his name features in the 18-man list announced on Tuesday morning, which reads as follows: Ter Stegen, Masip, Douglas S., Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sandro, S. Roberto, Mathieu and Gumbau (of Barça B).
Bayer 04 coach Roger Schmidt has injury worries of his own as his side will be without defenders Jedvaj and Ömer Toprak due to injury. Summer signing and star of Chile’s recent victory in the Copa América Charles Aránguiz will also be missing after rupturing an Achilles tendon in training at the end of August. Defender Roberto Hilbert has travelled to Barcelona despite missing the last three games with a knee problem and has a chance of making it into the 18 man squad.
Luis Enrique appeared before the press following training on Monday with one of the main topics the absence of Leo Messi. The Barça boss described the number 10 as “irreplaceable” but claimed that it was a challenge for this team to perform without their talisman. The Asturian went on to catalogue Bayer 04 Leverkusen as “not your typical German side” before stressing the importance of picking up points at home with a view to topping Group E.
German coach Roger Schmidt also made an appearance in the press room on Monday. For the 48 year old boss the key against Barça will be “keeping it tight and determination going forward, if we can score we have a chance of getting something out of the game.”
The blaugranes bounced back from their first league defeat of the season at Celta Vigo with a 2-1 victory at the weekend over Las Palmas. Luis Suárez scored twice in the game for the sixth time since joining the club to leave Barça in second place, just a point behind leaders Villarreal. Bayer 04 also picked a up a win on Saturday in the Bundesliga. An excellent 3-0 victory away at Werder Bremen lifted the Werkself into fifth place in German league with four wins and three defeats in seven matches so far.
The teams will be meeting for the ninth time in European competition. Barça have had the upper hand so far in their clashes with Bayer, recording five wins, one draw and two defeats in eight contests. The last time the two clubs clashed, history was made as Leo Messi became the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League game. Barça’s 7-1 victory at Camp Nou rounded off a 10-2 aggregate win in the round of 16 in the 2011/12 season.
Current Barça boss Luis Enrique found the net against the Germans when the blaugranes won 2-1 at Camp Nou in the group stages of the competition in October 2001. Bayer’s only previous win in Barcelona was an important one, a 1-0 victory in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1988 seeing them through to the last four. That season Leverkusen went on to win their only European trophy so far, beating Barça’s city rivals Espanyol on penalties after a 3-3 aggregate draw over two legs.
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