Champions League Preview: Barça vs Bayer Leverkusen

barcelona 7-1 bayer leverkusen messi goalThe last time Bayer Leverkusen visited Camp Nou, in March 2012, they received a 7-1 thrashing from Pep Guardiola’s Barça. Leo Messi played an absolute blinder that night, scoring five in one of the most dazzling displays ever seen in the Champions League. Messi will miss the reencounter between the two sides in tomorrow night’s Group E match (Tuesday 8.45 pm) as he begins a seven-to-eight week absence with his ligament injury.

There is no player in the world who could contribute as much as Messi does for Barça, but the Argentinian’s injury arrives when Barça have recently lost Pedro to Chelsea and Rafinha to injury, leaving just Munir and Sandro as the only natural forwards available to take Messi’s place. Neither of the youngsters can be called a top class striker without inserting the word “potentially” though they now have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate their worth.

The Catalan press have been running polls asking fans whether Luis Enrique should choose Munir or Sandro or another, such as Iniesta, to accompany Neymar and Luis Suárez in attack. It seems likely that the Barça coach will use various options during Messi’s absence, including the possibility of changing formation to 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Lucho has plenty of players available but there is an imbalance which means players normally used in the back four will need to cover for the lack of attacking midfielders and forwards.

For tomorrow’s game I think Munir should be given another chance. It would be good for his confidence after playing a role in both Barça’s goals against Las Palmas, and it would also allow an orthodox line-up elsewhere. Another strong option would be to play both Alves and Sergi Roberto with one of them playing further forward on the right wing.

There was good news this morning when Claudio Bravo and Jordi Alba both trained with the group and they could both be in contention to play tomorrow though Bravo seems more likely to start on the bench. Adriano, however, missed the session while Gerard Gumbau continues with the first team. Considering this is a Champions League match we can expect Luis Enrique to play his strongest possible team though how he adapts to Messi’s absence remains to be seen. It will certainly make predicting the team more interesting.

Leverkusen arrive as Group E leaders after beating BATE Borisov 4-1 while Barça drew at Roma. Coach Roger Schmidt is without Charles Aranguiz, Omer Toprak and Tin Jedvaj for tomorrow’s game while right-back Roberto Hilbert is a doubt. The German side arrive in good form after winning 0-3 at Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Possible teams:

Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Munir, Suárez, Neymar.

Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Donati, Tah, Papadopoulos, Wendell; Mehmedi, Bender, Kramer, Calhanoglu; Chicharito Hernandez, Bellarabi.

Prediction: Barça 2 Leverkusen 0

Date: Tuesday 29 September 2015. Kick-off 8.45 pm local time.

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4 Responses to Champions League Preview: Barça vs Bayer Leverkusen

  1. Pingback: Champions League Preview: Barça vs Bayer Leverkusen | BLOG TIKI-TAKA

  2. You beat me to the Sergi Roberto/Dani Alves combo on the right. I actually think that Dani Alves lost his spot to the youngster at right back. So, I would put Dani as a right winger.

    On another note, did anybody else see the ” a la Puyol” ground header Bartra pulled against Las Palmas? I am very impressed with Bartra and I hope he continues to grow. The kid is all balls.

    MESSI, MESSI, MESSI…broke my heart. What I know is that teams better beat us now because it will be almost impossible to do in the second leg of this season. We all have something to look forward to.

    • Fredegar says:

      I’m actually not that confident about the second leg of this season. Last year, in the Spring, we were an incredibly fit team, due to the smart rotations Enrique used and probably a good preparation. That fitness allowed us to dominate most teams, for example Bayern when in an incredibly physical affair, they faded at the end and allowed us (and Messi of course) to take advantage in the last ten minutes. And that was a constant throughout the Spring. My fear is that this first part of the season will tire our players far more than last year, thus depriving us of the fitness advantage we had in the second part of last year… But that’s a concern for the future, the immediate challenges facing us are considerable enough to just worry about Leverkusen for now!

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