Barcelona can advance with two games to spare

MADRID • Defending champions Barcelona could seal their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare in Group E when they host Bate Borisov today.

A third consecutive Champions League win for the Catalan side, despite the prolonged absence of the injured Lionel Messi, allied to Roma not beating Bayer Leverkusen at home, will mathematically guarantee the five-time champions a spot in the knockout stages.

Luis Suarez and Neymar have carried the scoring burden in Messi's absence, scoring all of Barca's last 14 league goals.

Both were on target in a comfortable 2-0 win over Getafe on Saturday that created more headlines for the Halloween costumes that the Barca players wore as they burst into a Getafe post-match press conference than the action on the field.

Suarez said their contrasting styles helped the club.

"Everyone knows their own game. I don't try to dribble past three or four players but Neymar has those characteristics," the Uruguayan said.

"Every player tries to adapt to what the coach asks of them."

However, the former Liverpool striker laughed off suggestions that Barca's recent form means they are not missing Messi.

"Everyone remembers Messi because he is the best player in the world. We all miss him," he said.

Barca manager Luis Enrique heaped praise on Sergio Busquets rather than Suarez and Neymar after the win at Getafe, hailing him as the "best midfielder in the world".

But Enrique also suggested that he wants to give Busquets a rest after a heavy workload at the start of the season and with a tough test in Villarreal to come at the weekend.

Javier Mascherano is free to play despite being halfway though a two-game ban in La Liga. Andres Iniesta is also likely to return to the starting XI for the first time in over a month after making his return from a hamstring injury as a substitute at the weekend.

Sergi Roberto also made his comeback against Getafe after picking up a groin injury in Barca's 2-0 win over Bate in Belarus two weeks ago.

And the 23-year-old made a spectacular impression with assists for both goals.

"After an injury, it is important to get back up to the speed of the competition. I felt good physically and without any pain," he said.


StarHub Ch202, tomorrow, 3.45am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Barcelona can advance with two games to spare'. Print Edition | Subscribe