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Just 102 days after their exhilarating victory in the final against Juventus in Berlin, FC Barcelona are back in Champions League action in their opening fixture of the 2015/16 edition of the competition. The blaugranes face another Italian side in AS Roma on Wednesday at 8.45pm CET, and return to the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital where they claimed their third triumph in the competition, beating Manchester United 2-0 in the final back in 2009.
Barça coach Luis Enrique named a 20 man squad for the trip to Rome following training on Monday. Three survivors of the 2009 side that lifted the trophy in the Stadio Olimpico are included, Gerard Piqué, Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta, A fourth, Dani Alves, is forced to miss out on the trip to due to injury as do fellow defenders Douglas, Thomas Vermaelen and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan are both ineligible until January 2016. The full squad is as follows: Ter Stegen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sandro, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Mathieu, Masip, Gumbau and José Suárez.
AS Roma coach Rudi Garcia has also named a 20 man squad for the visit of the champions. Included in the list are former blaugranes Iago Falqué and Seydou Keita, Defenders Antonio Rüdiger and Leandro Castán make it into the squad despite doubts over their fitness, However, midfielder Miralem Pjanic misses out due to injury whilst influential Dutchman Kevin Strootman continues to recover from a serious knee injury.
Luis Enrique appeared before the media on Tuesday in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and appeared keen to point out that the game on Wednesday will have nothing to do with the meeting between the sides in pre-season at Camp Nou in the Gamper Trophy match: “The Joan Gamper Trophy game is not a reference point because it was pre-season, there was not that intensity and Roma have added players since then.” For the Barça boss the goal of retaining the trophy was not a distraction: “The objective of winning the second consecutive Champions League is not added pressure, it’s a marvelous stimulus for the fans and the team. We will try but it is not added pressure, quite the opposite.”
AS Roma boss Rudi Garcia also faced questions from the press on Tuesday. The French coach claimed his side was ready for the task of facing Barça: "The objective is to assure a positive result. We can play in different ways and we are ready."
Barça ran out 3-0 winners at home in the beginning of August when the sides met in the Gamper Trophy match. However, since then AS Roma have started the Serie A season in fine form with a win over league champions Juventus on their way to picking up seven points from their opening three league games. Last weekend’s 2-0 win away at Frosinone leaves them in fourth place in the table.
Luis Enrique’s side top the Spanish First Division as the only side with a 100% record following last Saturday’s excellent 2-1 win away at Atlético Madrid. Nine points out of a possible nine sees them two points clear of second placed Real Madrid with a trophy, the European Super Cup, already in the bag this season.
The sides have met on several occasions in friendly fixtures over the years. the most recent coming in the Gamper Trophy game in August, however, they have only met twice in Champions League prior to Wednesday’s game. On Barça’s only previous trip to the Olympic Stadium in official competition, they went down to a 3-0 defeat in the second group stage of the 2001/02 competition. A point from the return fixture after a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou helped Barça through to the knock out stages but was not enough for the Italians who were eliminated. In both fixtures, current Barça boss Luis Enrique and AS Roma legend and current captain Francesco Totti were in the starting line up.
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