Tuesday, November 25 2014; 20:45 CET
GSP Stadium, Nicosia
FC Barcelona will be hoping to keep their chances of topping their Group F of the Champions League alive when they visit Cyprus to face APOEL on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi is on cusp of another record as he is now level with Real Madrid icon Raul Gonzalez on 71 strikes in Europe’s premier club competition and a clash against APOEL is a golden opportunity for him to surpass the Los Blancos legend.
FC Barcelona have already qualified for the group stages of Champions League but they are a point behind leaders Paris Saint Germain. A win in Cyprus would help Luis Enrique’s men to keep their chances of qualifying as group winners alive.
APOEL are already out of the Champions League but a positive result against FC Barcelona would help them secure a place in the UEFA Europa league.
Team News and Tactical Brief
APOEL sit at the bottom of Group F in the Champions League and coach Giorgos Donis will be hoping for a spirited display from his players as they still are in the contention for a Europa League spot.
APOEL have just one point to their name in first three games of the Champions League. APOEL played at Camp Nou on last match day and Giorgos Donis’ men played an intelligent game against FC Barcelona as they defended in numbers and made it difficult for Blaugrana players to score. And their fans will be hoping for a similar performance again on Tuesday.
The attackers of APOEL have failed miserably in Champions League this time as they have managed to score only 1 goal in 4 matches so far. The likes of Djebour and Manduca have failed to make any impact in Europe so far but APOEL have no depth in their squad and coach Giorgos Donis is expected to start the game with them only.
Meanwhile, the defenders of APOEL have performed comparatively well than their attackers as defensive partnership of Guilherme and Carlao have looked solid against the stronger oppositions like PSG and FC Barcelona.
Speaking in a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s match, APOEL coach Giorgos Donis lamented the goal scoring record of his strikers. He said: “They didn’t have the self-confidence required”.
Possible starting lineup: Pardo; Mario Sergio, Guilherme, Carlao, Loannou; Gomes, Nuno Morais, Vincius, Efrem; Djebour, Manduca
All eyes will be on Lionel Messi when FC Barcelona players enter the field on Tuesday as the Argentina international is just a goal shy of breaking Raul Gonzalez’s Champions League scoring record.
FC Barcelona are a point behind group leaders Paris Saint-Germain, having lost to the French champions earlier in the campaign. FC Barcelona made a sensational start to their season but they lost the tempo after a shock defeat against PSG at Parc de Princes and the deficiencies of Luis Enrique’s squad have been exposed on many occasions in past couple of months.
Defence of FC Barcelona has looked vulnerable against high pressing sides while midfield, considered as the biggest strength of Blaugrana, has lacked its usual pace and dominance under Luis Enrique.
But it now appears that FC Barcelona players have learned their lesson as their Sevilla victory was third in a row in all competitions, and Luis Enrique’s men dominated the game from start to end.
Luis Enrique will start Tuesday’s game with Marc Andre Ter Stagen in the goal while he is expected to start Martin Montoya on the right side of defence as Dani Alves has yellow card to his name while Douglas is out with injury.
Midfielder Andres Iniesta is also out with injury and Luis Enrique will start the game with midfield trio of Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquetes and Ivan Rakitic.
However, there won’t be any surprise inclusion in FC Barcelona’s attack as trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is gelling well together.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s clash, FC Barcelona captain Xavi said that he is confident that his players will continue their good run of form against the Cypriots.
“We played a great game against Sevilla,” Xavi is quoted as telling AS.
“We have seen a great FC Barcelona – a very complete performance. We certainly enjoyed playing our football.
“We’ve seen the best Barca of the season and the best Messi. We have to continue on this path. We have to continue improving.
“There are 25 players and we’re all compatible. The coach is responsible for picking who plays but we’re all compatible.”
Possible starting lineup: Ter Stegen; Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Rakitic, Busquetes, Xavi; Luis Suarez, Leo Messi, Neymar
Player To Watch Out For:
Lionel Messi has a good chance to put his name in the record books on Tuesday against APOEL. The Argentina international has 71 Champions League goals to his name and he will try his best to surpass Raul’s record against Tuesday itself as Cristiano Ronaldo is just 2 goals behind the Argentinean.
APOEL 0-2 FC Barcelona
APOEL strikers have not scored in last 275 minutes of play in Europe and they do not have enough quality to trouble the defence of FC Barcelona. On the other hand, FC Barcelona attackers are looking in a fine touch at the moment and Catalans will not find it much difficult to beat the Cypriots on Matchday 5.
Blast From The Past