Euphoric Barcelona look to seal Champions League spot (Preview)

Barcelona, Nov 23 (IANS) Title holders FC Barcelona look to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they entertain Italian side AS Roma in the Camp Nou Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Camp Nou will see a special security operation to ensure the safety of the fans in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, but that should do little to dampen the atmosphere after Barcelona’s magnificent 4-0 away win over bitter rivals Real Madrid in La Liga on Saturday night, reports Xinhua.

That result left Luis Enrique’s men four points clear atop La Liga and showed that after a slow start to the season, they are now very much back to their best.

With his side needing just a draw on Tuesday to assure they progress to the next phase, coach Enrique may be tempted to make some changes from the side which played so well on Saturday, but with injuries to players such as defender Javier Mascherano, who may not recover from the knock he suffered against Madrid, his options are limited.

He would love to rest central midfielder Sergi Busquets, but the doubts over Mascherano make that unlikely, although Marc Bartra has a chance to play in central defence alongside Gerard Pique.

Key players Ivan Rakitic and Lionel Messi both played against Madrid as they recover from their respective injuries and both with play at some stage against Roma, although whether they will start or begin the match on the bench is open to debate.

Enrique has seen how the Luis Suarez-Neymar striking duo has grown during Messi’s absence and as such will allow his start striker to pace his recovery, thinking in the long term rather than in any quick fix.

Roma are second in the group, but a defeat would leave the Italian side, who are fourth in Serie A needing to win their last game to have a chance of reaching the knockout stage and they will be highly motivated, meaning that Barcelona will not be able to rest on their laurels quite as much as they would probably like to.

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