It’s no final, but Tuesday night’s game with Ajax is still of crucial importance following the 3-2 defeat in Paris a fortnight ago. Barça need three points at the Camp Nou to stay in contention for top spot in Group F of the Champions League.
And there is the dangerous distraction of the visit to the Santiago Bernabéu for Saturday’s Liga match, although Luis Enrique insisted in his pre-match conference that “right now the only important game is the one with Ajax.” There will be four days to think about Real Madrid after that, but the Champions League is the main priority for the moment.
As has been the norm this season, there have been changes to the squad with respect to the last outing. Ter Stegen, Rakitic and Iniesta are all included, while there are no places for the injured Adriano, Sergio and Douglas, the dropped Masip, Mathieu, Vermaelen and Sergi Roberto or the suspended Luis Suárez. But this is the last game for which the Uruguayan will be unavailable, for his suspension runs out on Friday. Luis Enrique has also opted to include Barça B’s Samper.
The game is a duel between the second and third placed teams in the group. Ajax started with a 1-1 draw at home to PSG and then travelled to APOEL FC for a game that ended with the same scoreline. The side managed by Frank de Boer are currently second in their domestic league, four points behind leaders PSV.