Barcelona try to keep win­ning form with­out Messi

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Ney­mar and Luis Suarez will lead the at­tack again when Barcelona vis­its Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach in its first Cham­pi­ons League game since los­ing Lionel Messi to an in­jury.

The two for­wards led Barcelona to a 5-0 win at Sport­ing Gi­jon in the Span­ish league on Satur­day, when Messi was al­ready side­lined be­cause of a groin ail­ment, and to­day they will try to help the Cata­lan club end Moenchenglad­bach’s 11-game win­ning streak at home in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Ney­mar has scored four goals in the last four matches, while Suarez has eight goals in his nine games this sea­son.

Barcelona has won only once in its last six matches against Bun­desliga teams in Ger­many.

An­other Ger­man club with an im­por­tant match against Span­ish op­po­si­tion is Bay­ern Mu­nich, which plays at Atletico Madrid in a re­match of last sea­son’s semi­fi­nals.

GROUP A

Three months af­ter play­ing against each other at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, the Xhaka broth­ers meet again.

Granit Xhaka should line up for Ar­se­nal against his older brother Taulant, a de­fender for Swiss team Basel. At Euro 2016, Granit played for Switzer­land while Taulant fea­tured for Al­ba­nia af­ter switch­ing his in­ter­na­tional al­le­giance in 2013.

Both teams started with 1-1 draws, al­though Ar­se­nal got the re­sult at Paris Saint-Ger­main in pos­si­bly the Eng­lish team’s tough­est match in the group.

Basel, which beat Chelsea and drew at both Manch­ester United and Liver­pool in the past five sea­sons in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion, is lead­ing the Swiss league by 13 points thanks to its 100 per­cent do­mes­tic record.

PSG, still with­out in­jured winger Hatem Ben Arfa, is away to Bul­gar­ian side Lu­do­gorets Raz­grad.

GROUP B

Napoli was the only group win­ner in the open­ing round and has a chance to so­lid­ify its lead when it hosts Ben­fica.

The Ital­ian side will be re­ly­ing on 22-year-old Poland for­ward Arka­diusz Mi­lik, who has filled in ad­mirably af­ter Gon­zalo Higuain’s Ital­ian-record trans­fer to Ju­ven­tus for 90 mil­lion eu­ros ($99 mil­lion).

He scored both goals in the come­back win at Dy­namo Kiev and added two more two-goal matches in Serie A.

In Napoli’s pre­vi­ous Cham­pi­ons League ap­pear­ance in 201314, the club won all three of its home matches against Borus­sia Dort­mund, Mar­seille and Ar­se­nal, yet still failed to ad­vance de­spite col­lect­ing 12 points — more than any other side that has missed the qual­i­fi­ca­tion cut.

Ben­fica, which con­ceded a late equal­izer to Be­sik­tas at home in its opener, is likely to re­main with­out for­ward Jonas be­cause of an in­jury.

Dy­namo Kiev will try to re­bound at Be­sik­tas.

GROUP C

Barcelona goal­keeper Mar­cAn­dre ter Ste­gen will be mak­ing an emo­tional re­turn to his home­town of Moenchenglad­bach.

“I ab­so­lutely can­not wait for it,” he said. “I had a great time there and spent my en­tire ca­reer there apart from the last two years. Borus­sia is my first love and that will al­ways be the case.”

Ter Ste­gen made 108 Bun­desliga ap­pear­ances for Borus­sia from 2011-14.

Celtic lost 7-0 to Ter Ste­gen’s Barcelona in the opener, and things don’t get much eas­ier for the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons.

Next up for Celtic is Manch­ester City, which is on a 10-match win­ning run un­der new coach Pep Guardi­ola. One of its best per­for­mances so far was a 4-0 win over Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach.

City will be with­out one of its lead­ing play­ers, Kevin De Bruyne, be­cause of a ham­string in­jury.

GROUP D

Bay­ern’s last three trips to Spain all ended in de­feats and elim­i­na­tion in the semi­fi­nals of the Cham­pi­ons League. It hap­pened against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, its op­po­nent again on Wed­nes­day.

Cap­tain Philipp Lahm down­played any talk of re­venge for the match at the Vi­cente Calderon Sta­dium.

“We can’t make up for the loss last sea­son,” he said. “Our job is to get points and then we could speak about a good start to this year’s cam­paign. But we know what to ex­pect and it won’t be easy.”

Bay­ern and Atletico won their open­ing matches and will be fight­ing for first place in the group.

Bay­ern has won all eight matches un­der Carlo Ancelotti, the best start for a new Bay­ern coach. Ancelotti was in charge of Real Madrid when it beat Atletico in the 2014 fi­nal.

Atletico will be with­out mid­fielder Au­gusto Fer­nan­dez, who tore a right knee lig­a­ment in the Span­ish league on Sun­day.

Ros­tov hosts PSV Eind­hoven in Rus­sia in the other group match.

Ar­se­nal’s Me­sut Ozil dur­ing yes­ter­day’s train­ing soin in Lon­don

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