Friday, April 27, 2018

Barcelona v Roma: Buoyant Blaugrana on the brink of last-16 spot

SoccerNews in La Liga 22 Nov 2015


Barcelona will look to repeat the performance they delivered in the Clasico as they host Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique’s side dispatched Real Madrid 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in a ruthless display which has seen them pull six points clear of their fierce rivals in the Liga table.

Barca, with 10 points from the first four games, can clinch a spot in the last 16 for the 12th season running if they earn just a point against Rudi Garcia’s Roma, or if Bayer Leverkusen fail to beat BATE in Group E’s other encounter.

The European champions are now eight games without a defeat and have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five, and Ivan Rakitic – who returned to the team against Madrid following a calf injury – wants to sustain that form for as long as possible.

“We enjoyed it a lot, not just because of our play. We had a great game,” he said of the win over Madrid. 

“There’s a lot left [of the season]. We want to do well in every game and work to the maximum to keep doing it.

“It was a very special day and we are the first ones who want to enjoy it and do it well. We look forward to creating a lot of joy.”

Barca were also boosted by the return of Lionel Messi from the bench against Madrid and Rakitic hopes his recovery will progress quickly now he is back in the side.

“Leo is a very important player for us and hopefully he’ll keep feeling better with each match,” he added.

Roma, who sit second in the group with just a one-point advantage on third-placed Leverkusen, come into the match following a controversial 2-2 draw with Bologna on Saturday which saw them miss out on the chance to move top of the Serie A table.

Head coach Rudi Garcia was furious that the game was allowed to go ahead on a waterlogged pitch, but defender Maicon says his side should be thankful to have earned a point and has challenged his team-mates to “step up” against Barca, as a victory could send them through to the knockout phase if Leverkusen drop points.

“We battled hard and tried to play our game despite the weather. The main thing is that we at least come away with a point,” he told the club’s official website.

“Tuesday will be a different competition. We’re going to have to take a step up because it’s a different game in a different setting. Hopefully we can prepare for it well and produce a big performance at Barcelona.”

With Messi and Rakitic now back in the side, Rafinha (knee) and Douglas (foot) are Luis Enrique’s only real injury concerns ahead of Tuesday’s game, though Javier Mascherano is a doubt after taking a knock against Madrid and Dani Alves is one booking away from incurring a suspension. Roma, meanwhile, are without Francesco Totti, Gervinho (both thigh) and Mohamed Salah (ankle), though Daniele De Rossi could be fit to return to the squad.

Following a 1-1 draw in Italy on matchday one, Roma remain the only side to have played Barca more than twice in Europe’s top competition without suffering a defeat, but they have not won away from home since a 3-2 victory over Basel in November 2010.

Luis Enrique’s side boast a formidable home record against Italian visitors, however, having won seven and drawn two of their last nine matches.


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