The footballing world is still talking about Barcelona’s incredible win at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday, but now the Catalan giants must focus their attention on qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League.
The last 16 a formality for brilliant Barca
Their qualification into the last 16 of the Champions League for a 12th consecutive year is surely a formality, but Barcelona will want to confirm top spot in Group E with a home win against Roma. With their systematic dismantling of bitter rivals Real Madrid in Saturday’s El Clasico still the talking point in all the bars and cafes in the city, coach Luis Enrique will have no room for sentiment towards his former club who visit the Camp Nou on Tuesday evening. A win for his team will ensure top spot in the group and even if his side slips up in front of their own fans, they could still confirm their place in the last 16 if Bayer Leverkusen fail to take points away at Bate Borisov in the groups other game. Having won 13 of their last 15 home ties in this competition, few would back against them failing to get the job done on Tuesday. The best online sports betting sites currently quote them at *4.00 to do what no other team has done so far; retain European club football’s biggest prize.
Garcia left fuming after Bologna farce
Roma coach Rudi Garcia cut an angry figure at his post-match press conference on Saturday night as his side dropped two more valuable points in the Serie A title race after being held to a 2-2 draw at a rain soaked Bologna. The game, which was played in atrocious conditions, was described by Garcia as “A lottery” going on to explain that; “I asked the referee to call the match off, this was not a game of football.” He now has to get his players prepared for the unenviable task of having to play a vibrant Barcelona in their own backyard. He will however, be aware that the destiny of his side in this season competition, could still be in their own hands going into the final round of group matches in two weeks’ time. The best football betting sites are offering odds of *1.33 for the Giallorossi to join Tuesday’s opponents in the last 16.
Having only played a cameo role in Saturday’s win in Madrid, Lionel Messi looks set to claim a starting berth against the Italians on Tuesday. His Argentinian colleague, Javier Mascherano, will not be involved after picking up a muscle injury in the win at the Bernabéu. Two more absentees for the midweek clash are Brazilian defender Douglas and Spanish midfielder Rafinha, who are both recovering from injury. Enrique will switch goalkeepers once more with his number one choice for European games, Marc ter Stegen returning to the team.
Roma’s Egyptian striker Mo Salah is still recovering from an ankle injury he picked up in the recent derby win over Lazio and Ivory Coast wingman Gervinho, picked up an injury whilst on international duty and is also sidelined. Captain Daniele De Rossi was not involved at the weekend and he faces a race against time to be fit for Tuesday as he recovers from a thigh problem. Spanish striker Iago Falque could come into the team in place of Juan Iturbe who was ineffective in the rain in Bologna.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Barcelona (4-3-3) ter Stegen; Alba, Mathieu, Piqué, Alves; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Neymar, Suárez, Messi
Roma (4-3-3) Szczesny; Digne, Manolas, Rüdiger, Maicon; Nainggolan, Keita, Pjanic; Falque, Dzeko, Florenzi
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides have only met on three previous occasions in competitive fixtures, with Roma still unbeaten against their Spanish counterparts. The Italians were visitors to the Camp Nou in the summer however, where they contested the Gamper Trophy which Barcelona won 3-0 thanks to goals from Neymar, Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitić.
Barcelona 1.28 Draw 6.00 Roma 12.00
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)