BATE Borisov host FC Barcelona in the third round of games in Champions League Group E / FCB

Champions League football returns on Tuesday at 8.45pm CET with title holders FC Barcelona away to BATE Borisov in their third game in Group E. The Catalans currently top the table with four points from the first two fixtures.

Team news

Thomas Vermaelen has received the medical green light and is a new addition to the Barça squad that left for Belarus after training on Monday morning. The Belgian centre-back had been out injured since the game at Atletico Madrid in September. A total of 20 players have made the journey: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Masip, Vermaelen, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Douglas, Mascherano, Piqué, Mathieu, Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets, Rakitic, Gumbau, Munir, Sandro, Suárez and Neymar Jr.[[DES_1]]

The injured Leo Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Rafinha stay at home, as do Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal due to the FIFA suspension.

For BATE, winger Aleksandr Hleb will unfortunately miss the game against his former club with a knee injury. Seasoned international striker Vitali Rodionov is out for the same reason, while defenders Maksim Zhavnerchik and Kaspars Dubra are also unfit.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Speaking to the press shortly after arriving in Belarus, Barça boss Luis Enrique commented that “we are in one of the toughest groups and we are not expecting it to be easy. I have as a reference BATE’s win over Roma. They are missing players but I'm sure that the motivation of playing against the Champions will make up for that." On the absence of Leo Messi, he added that "this team works as unit. It's not a question of another player taking over his role." He also admitted that “we are working hard to improve in defence. It was worrying how Rayo were able to take their chances.”

BATE manager Aleksandr Yermakovich feels he knows what went wrong the last time they met Barça. “We overloaded the team with tactical knowledge” he explained in his Monday press conference. “We gave the players a lot of information but it did not help as we suffered two big defeats. Given that negative experience, this time we decided to keep tactical preparations to a minimum.” And it’s a challenge he’s certainly looking forward to. “The squad feels the excitement of an important game” he said. “Probably the whole of Belarus feels it.”

Form guide

After losing two of their previous three matches in La Liga, Barça returned to the top of the table, tied on 18 points with Real Madrid and Celta, on the back of a 5-2 win at home to Rayo Vallecano, with an outstanding Neymar scoring four. Their Champions League title defence began with a 1-1 draw at AS Roma. That was followed by a 2-1 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen at the Camp Nou, late goals from Sergi Roberto and Luis Suárez securing the three points after the Germans had led for 58 minutes.

BATE clinched the Belarusian Premier League championship at the weekend with a 2-0 defeat of PFC Vitebsk. Their tenth successive title came with four games in hand. They had to negotiate three rounds of qualification to reach the Champions League group stage for the fifth time in eight years, beating Dundalk (Ireland), Videoton (Hungary) and Partizan (Serbia). They started Group E with a 4-1 reverse in Leverkusen but followed that up with an impressive 3-2 defeat of Roma.

History

The only previous meeting between the sides was in the 2011/12 Champions League. Barça won 5-0 in Minsk with goals from Valadzko (og), Pedro, Messi (2) and David Villa. The Catalans had already clinched top spot in the group by the time of the return at the Camp Nou, and manager Pep Guardiola chose to rest several of his players with the clásico against Real Madrid just around the corner. In a team with an average age of just 22 years, both Sergi Roberto and Martin Montoya scored on their European debuts, with Pedro adding two more in a 4-0 victory.

Coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. And remember, you can enjoy live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The link will appear at fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.


Barça’s only previous visit to BATE BORISOV by fcbarcelona

No to Racism

UEFA is promoting its 'No to racism' campaign with a series of actions in the games being played this week. BATE and Barça will be coming onto the field in shirts carrying the slogan, which will also appear on the respective captain’s armbands.