Barca one point away from a spot in last 16

Neymar celebrating during the 3-0 win over Bate Borisov on Wednesday. Barcelona are leading Group E by five points.
Neymar celebrating during the 3-0 win over Bate Borisov on Wednesday. Barcelona are leading Group E by five points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA • Brazilian striker Neymar is in the form of his life and he thanked his "lucky headband" after netting twice, as Barcelona eased past Bate Borisov 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Brazil star also set up Barca's other goal on the night for Luis Suarez as the champions moved to within a point of sealing their place in the last 16.

Neymar and Suarez have now combined for 18 of Barca's last 21 goals since four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi suffered knee ligament damage nearly six weeks ago.

Barca remain hopeful that Messi will be fit to face Spanish Primera Liga arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in just over two weeks.

"It is clear we miss Messi but I am in the form of my life and I hope to continue like this," Neymar told beIN Sports after the win over Bate.

The Brazilian striker opened the scoring from the penalty spot before teeing up Suarez to double the advantage on the hour mark.

The Uruguayan then returned the favour, as his unselfish pass presented Neymar with an open goal for his second of the night seven minutes from time.

"Half the goal belongs to Suarez," said Neymar.

"He is a star and in great form."

The South American duo's hot streak of late has wiped away early season fears of Barca's lack of killer instinct in front of goal.

However, coach Luis Enrique insisted he never doubted his star forward line would come good.

"Given their quality and the chances the team creates, it was never in doubt," he said.

Victory extends the club's advantage at the top of Group E, as they lead second-placed Roma by five points with two games remaining.

The Italian side visit the Nou Camp in three weeks' time.

Barcelona (10 points) may not even need a point to qualify if Bayer Leverkusen fail to triumph away in Belarus.

"Our intention is to win the group," said Enrique.

"We are playing against Roma and we will try to win the game as Barca do in every match."

The one setback of the evening for the hosts was another injury to a midfield player as Ivan Rakitic hobbled off after 20 minutes.

Tests have revealed a minor tear in his right calf which will keep him out of Sunday's clash with Villarreal at home.

Said Enrique on the Croatian: "We are waiting on news from the doctors but he will definitely miss the next game.

"The only thing that is concerning me at the moment is Villarreal. That is the only game I am thinking about."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2015, with the headline 'Barca one point away from a spot in last 16'. Print Edition | Subscribe