This Sunday, three members of the Barça squad have crucial Euro 2016 qualifying games. Belgium, Croatia and Turkey are all chasing places in next year’s finals in France.
Thomas Vermaelen’s Belgium are away to Cyprus in Group B (kick off 8.45pm CET), where a win would guarantee them at least a playoff berth. When the game in Nicosia gets under way, the Belgians (who beat Bosnia 3-1 on Thursday) will already know the outcome of third-placed Israel’s visit to group leaders Wales. If the Israelis fail to win that one, then a win against Cyprus would virtually assure Belgium a place in the finals.
Ivan Rakitic’s Croatia could only draw 0-0 in Azerbaijan on Thursday, but have managed to hold onto top spot in Group H on goal difference ahead of Italy. At 6.00pm CET on Sunday, a crucial tie gets under way for them in Oslo against Norway, who are just two points behind and still well in the hunt for one of the top two places. A win would leave Croatia on the verge of qualification, but anything else would leave it all to be decided in the final two rounds of group games in October.
Turkey’s 1-1 draw with Latvia this week saw Arda Turan’s side squander a wonderful opportunity to move up to third in Group A, with Holland stunned 1-0 at home by group leaders Iceland. Along with the Czech Republic, Iceland are now very much the favourites to claim one of the top two places. And that leaves the Turks and Dutch to battle it out for a place in the playoffs, where the outcome of Sunday’s direct clash between the sides in Istanbul (6.00pm CET) is likely to play a very important role. A Turkish win would put them a promising two points ahead of Holland with two games to play. But defeat would leave them with only a very remote chance of squeezing through to the playoffs.