Camp Nou, Barcelona
Tuesday, 24th October, 20.45 CET
AS Roma travel to the Nou Camp in what is sure to be, a pivotal game in their Champions League campaign against the reigning Champions, FC Barcelona on Tuesday night. With Barcelona having virtually qualified from the Group Stage, the onus would be on Rudi Garcia to elicit an inspired victory for his men.
Both teams come into this fixture with contrasting momentum and differing ambitions. FC Barcelona were the undisputed winners at the El Clasico on Saturday, having trounced a hapless Real Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeau in a masterful, comprehensive performance that painfully highlighted the difference between Spain’s top two teams.
With Luis Suarez scoring twice and Iniesta in scintillating form, the prospect of facing Le Blaugrana would make most teams shiver and tremble in fright. Topping the League table and their Champions League group, it would be interesting to predict Barcelona’s ambitions for this fixture.
As Roma would come into this match with mixed emotions. They aren’t too far away from the top of Serie A, being 3 points off the pace. Yet, they should have possibly narrowed the deficit to one when they took on lowly Bologna the previous weekend. A late equaliser from their former player Matteo Destro, (of all people) secured an unlikely draw for Bologna in a match that was more noted for it’s water-logged pitch and dubious refereeing decisions. As Roma are now one point off third placed Bayern Leverkeusen and could secure qualification if they manage to beat Barcelona and if Leverkeusen drop points against BATE Borislov.
Team News and Tactics
The European Champions have now gone eight games without a defeat and have kept a clean sheet in the past five games and look a formidable opponent even if the burden of winning isn’t sorely on them.
Barcelona would require just a point from this fixture to qualify for the knockout phase of this season Champions League.
With that in mind, and with the presence of home support, the Catalan outfit may be pre-disposed to attack in style and clinically dispatch AS Roma.
With Lionel Messi having played a small part in the El Clasico, it would be the ideal game to re-introduce him to the starting line-up. Ivan Rakitic also shrugged off his Calf Muscle injury to play a huge role in Madrid’s dismantling at the weekend and would likely be in the first eleven to further his return to the team. Javier Marcherano may be rested for this fixture after he picked up a knock in the El Clasico and Dani Alves could be withdrawn as he is one booking away from a suspension. Douglas and Rafinha remain the only long-term injury absentees from the Barcelona squad.
With their attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez restored, the only positions in doubt would be the centre of defence for Barcelona. Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic should form the midfield trio, while Pique, Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba should start for the defence. Thomas Vermaelen could be introduced in the place of Javier Mascherano or Dani Alves and should be ahead in the pecking order of Marc Bartra, who was left out of the El Clasico side completely. Claudio Bravo played an outstanding game at the Bernabeau on Saturday and should retain his place in goal.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Bravo; Mathieu, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Iniesta, Busquets; Neymar, Messi, Suarez.
As Roma would be sweating on the return of Daniele De Rossi as they are already without a slew of first team players. Francesco Totti, Mohammed Salah and Gervinho are all out injured to add to Rudi Garcia’s headaches while they face a crucial battle in the Camp Nou to ensure their progress in the Champions League.
Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal as he has done for Roma all season. Garcia will be tempted to keep stability and experience against a formidable Barcelona attack and would, in all likelihood, play Maicon, Digne, Manolas and Rudiger in defence.
The Midfield selections pose an interesting dilemma to Rudi Garcia for the outcome of this game. While Nainggolan, Florenzi and Miralem Pjanic are sure to retain their starting positions, Seydou Keita may be deemed a risky selection against his former team. At 35, Keita may not have the pace to deal with Barcelona’s midfield three, who with their direct play, could force Keita to put out multiple fires at once.
Edin Dzeko and Juan Iturbe should retain their place as they played quite efficiently against Bologna. Edin Dzeko also got on the scoresheet and Garcia may be tempted to introduce youngster, Sadiq Umar late into the game to give the Giallorossi an extra dimension and unpredictable quality.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Szczesny; Maicon, Manolas, Rudiger, Digne; Keita, Pjanic, Nainggolan; Florenzi, Iturbe, Dzeko.
- Barcelona haven’t lost to Italian Opposition in their last 9 home matches, winning 7 and drawing 2
- Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last five games
- Barcelona have only dropped points in this Champions League Campaign to Roma
- AS Roma are unbeaten in their previous two Champions League Matches
Players to watch out For
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
With injury ruling him out for 8 weeks, Lionel Messi is once again fit to take the centre stage at the Nou Camp this Tuesday. While Barcelona have not suffered in his absence, the Argentine would like to reclaim his status as Barcelona’s head honcho in his first start for the club since the end of September. With Barcelona in imperious form, it would remain to be seen whether he could link up again with Neymar and Suarez in the devastating attacking trident that propelled Barcelona to the Treble last year.
FC Barcelona 3-1 AS Roma
Barcelona’s form and swagger gives little chance to Rudi Garcia’s men. Roma will go into this match knowing a win will put them in a strong position to qualify for the knockout phases, yet must prepare themselves for the possibility of a tense final matchday where they will need to beat BATE Borislov at home and hope Barcelona blow away Leverkeusen. Their inconsistent form would not help their confidence and with talismanic captain Francesco Totti injured, it would be a rare man indeed who would suggest a Roma victory at the Nou Camp.