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Leo Messi is just 3 goals away from 100 in the Champions League

Just one win from any of FC Barcelona’s three remaining games in Champions League Group D would almost certainly guarantee passage to the last sixteen. The first of those chances comes in Piraeus on Tuesday night (8.45pm CET) against an Olympiacos side that’s still looking for its first points.

The game is a second emotional homecoming for Ernesto Valverde in the space of just four days. After returning to Athletic Club on Sunday he now visits the Greek club that he has managed on two separate occasions.

Team news

For the visitors, Gerard Piqué is suspended while Dembélé, Rafinha, Vidal, Arda and Iniesta are all out injured. On the plus side, Vermaelen has been declared match fit and although Mascherano has been feeling unwell, he was on the flight to Greece, as were two players from Barça B, Ortolá and Aleñá.

The complete list of 20 players is: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Ortolá (31), Semedo, Rakitic, Busquets, Denis Suárez, Luis Suárez, Messi, Mascherano, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Alcácer, Alba, Digne, S. Roberto, Gomes, Umtiti, Vermaelen and Aleñá (26).

The only concern for Olympiacos is Brazilian left winger Sebá, who has an injured knee.

Coaches’ viewpoints

Valverde discussed his return to Olympiacos in his press conference: “It’s emotional to be back in Athens for what it means to me. They were three wonderful years where I felt respected by everyone, even my opponents and I am looking forward to a wonderful atmosphere.”

On the subject of the febrile atmosphere at the ground: “The fans at Olympiacos put a lot of pressure on you. They come to take part in a footballing festival and they inject a lot of passion in general and you can sense that from the start.”

Takis Lemonis discussed the atmosphere in the squad following the derby defeat to Panathinaikos: “You all know we had a bad result, but it is good for us that we have to play Barcelona tomorrow”

Lemonis then went on to say his players remained motivated and ready to go, especially as they are playing Barça: “It is certainly a dream for them and they have shown me how much they want to play tomorrow.”

Form guide

With three wins out of three in Europe, as well as being four points clear at the top of La Liga, things are shaping up very nicely indeed for the Catalans.

It’s not quite so hunky dory for their hosts. After losing 1-0 to local rivals Panathinaikos the ‘derby of the eternal enemies’ at the weekend, Olympiacos have dropped to fifth in the Greek Super League. In Europe, following three straight defeats they need a win against Barça to maintain any serious hope of still being in the Champions League after Christmas.

History

Video footage has survived of the first ever meeting between these two clubs in a 1962 friendly, but until Barça’s 3-1 win earlier this month, they had never met in an official encounter.

But Barça have generally fared very well against Greek clubs over the years, but there was a very close call in 2002 Champions League quarter-finals. After losing 1-0 at Panathinaikos, they then went a further goal down at the Camp Nou before mounting a spectacular comeback crowned by a Javier Saviola winner.

But Olympiacos have done surprisingly well against other sides from La Liga. In Fact, Valencia’s 4-2 win in 2006 is the only time out of ten that they have been beaten on home territory by a team from Spain.

Coverage

The game will be broadcast on numerous channels around the world but if for whatever reason you can’t get to see the game, you could try listening instead to our live English commentary on Radio Barça (the link will appear on the home page shortly before kick-off) or checking our official Twitter account for all the news as it comes in from the Karaiskakis Stadium

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