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PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB

The New Sardinero will be a good test of Barça's current form.  The team have put together a run of three league wins plus an imposing ride into the quarterfinals of the Champions LeagueFive wins in the last five encounters.  The battle to maintain this winning streak– Barça are 13 points adrift of Real Madrid after the victory in Seville – will be played out in the New Sardinero, a ground Barça have found very favourable over the past three seasons.

Rich pickings for Guardiola

Since Pep Guardiola took charge, Barça have won all of their matches away to Racing: 1-2 (2008/09), 1-4 (2009/10) and 0-3 (2010/11). It's been particularly fertile ground for Leo Messi, who scored five in the three games including Barça's 5000th league goal.  The match also comes on the back of Messi's five-goal exhibition against Bayer Leverkusen (7-1), a feat that delighted fans across Europe.

Doubts in defence

The presence of Carles Puyol in the squad is the main news though the Barça captain has yet to get full clearance from Club doctors.  However, Piqué (suspended) plus Thiago, Abidal, Alexis, Villa, Afellay and Fontàs (injury) are all discounted.  With so many players missing or doubtful, Guardiola has a limited number of options, especially in defence, and has drafted in Tello, Muniesa, Sergi Roberto, Bartra and Montoya from the reserves.

A difficult week for Racing

It's been a difficult week for Racing Santander.  The club, which currently sits second from bottom and three points adrift of safety, sacked manager Juanjo Gonzalez and brought in Álvaro Cervera, until then manager of Recreativo.  The new man has had very little time to prepare his players and will also have to cope with the absence of goalkeeper Toño (suspended) and forward Acosta (injured).

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