German fort won't deter Barca

Barcelona's artillery remains well-stocked in Lionel Messi's absence - with Luis Suarez (left) and Neymar, twice, both on target in the La Liga win at Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona's artillery remains well-stocked in Lionel Messi's absence - with Luis Suarez (left) and Neymar, twice, both on target in the La Liga win at Sporting Gijon. PHOTO: REUTERS

Coach Enrique has firepower to end Gladbach's winning streak without Messi

BERLIN • Barcelona visit Borussia Monchengladbach for their Champions League match today without Lionel Messi, but they have enough options and firepower to plug the gap, said coach Luis Enrique.

Messi is out for three weeks with a groin injury suffered in the midweek Spanish La Liga 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid. On Saturday, they fired five goals past Sporting Gijon in a show of force ahead of their second European Group C match.

The Catalans have scored 18 goals in four games since making wholesale changes in the shock 1-2 home loss to Alaves on Sept 10, with Neymar and Luis Suarez in fine form.

They bounced back by crushing Scotland's Celtic 7-0 in their opening European game to top the standings on goal difference ahead of Manchester City.

"I have different kinds of players and that gives me a lot of options," said Enrique, who has fresh legs at his disposal, including Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Javier Mascherano, whom he rested on Saturday.

"Depending on who we are playing and the players I have available, I will pick the ones that I think are right for the situation.

"To lose Messi means that football loses. With Messi, we are stronger. But we will continue being strong."

For Barca goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, it will be an emotional return with the club he left in 2014.

"I had a fantastic time there and played for the club my entire career apart for the last two years," said the German. "Borussia are my old love and that will remain so, but I identify with Barca 100 per cent. On the pitch, there is only one club for me."

Barca will need that focus if they are to get maximum points and snap Moenchengladbach's home winning streak in all competitions, which they stretched to 11 following their 2-0 home success over Ingolstadt on Saturday.

Coach Andre Schubert was rewarded with a new two-year contract yesterday, in recognition of steering the team from bottom of the Bundesliga, when he took over in September last year, to finishing fourth and earning Champions League qualification.

Brazilian danger man Raffael is back after injuring his adductor muscles in both legs as the German side the look to bounce back from their 0-4 defeat at City. Fit-again creative midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud is also expected to figure after playing against Ingolstadt.

"We are happy to be playing against one of the world's best teams," said defender Oscar Wendt. "But we are no fans of Barcelona and do not want to play a supporting role on the night."

In Glasgow, Celtic will also be trying to recover from their opening rout, with manager Brendan Rodgers needing the safest pair of hands he can find to keep out some of the best finishers in English football.

City, with 18 goals, are the top Premier League scorers and have won 10 out of 10 games in all competitions under Pep Guardiola.

Their latest victims Swansea City rolled aside 1-3 on Saturday, with Sergio Aguero scoring twice.

Unconvincing Dutch goalkeeper Dorus de Vries was substituted at half-time injured in the 6-1 Scottish Premier League win over Kilmarnock on Saturday, with Scotland international Craig Gordon the replacement.

Rodgers said he would have no qualms about fielding Gordon, saying: "He's more than capable. He's a brilliant shot-stopper, he's improving his game with his feet all the time.

City, who beat Moenchengladbach 4-0 thanks to an Aguero hat-trick, will lose Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne to a hamstring injury. But they have plenty of other options, including Raheem Sterling who will be facing his former Liverpool manager Rodgers.

There is also a reunion for Celtic's former City players, including defender Kolo Toure and midfielder Scott Sinclair.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'German fort won't deter Barca'. Print Edition | Subscribe