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Champions League Group G Preview: Barcelona poised to advance

Barcelona are poised to seal a last-16 Champions League berth as Benfica and Spartak Moscow also square up in Group G.

Another win should seal a spot knockout stages for Barcelona although Benfica’s clash with Spartak Moscow may just be the encounter that holds the key to seeing who will advance from this group.

Barcelona, the 2009, 2011 champions travel to Glasgow, however, to face Scottish champions Celtic in Group G, who are enjoying their return to Europe’s elite club competition in 2012.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique could return in the heart of Tito Vilanova’s back four and has been included in their squad for the first time since suffering a foot injury in September.

Defensive partner Carles Puyol is still absent as are Adriano and Tiago, while Celtic counterpart Neil Lennon has a number of injury headaches ahead of the clash.

Strikers Georgios Samaras and Gary Hooper, James Forrest, Thomas Rogne and Emilio Izaguirre are all in doubt with the latter two injured in Celtic’s 2-2 draw with Dundee United in the SPL on Sunday.

Barcelona’s holding midfielder Sergio Busquets is suspended for the match while Celtic captain Scott Brown is battling a hip problem but is likely to feature as the Hoops attempt to avenge their late loss at the Camp Nou in the last encounter between these sides.

A fourth win for Barcelona, though, would ensure they progress to the knockout stages of the tournament should Benfica or Spartak draw in their clash in Lisbon.

Celtic produced a lion-hearted display at the Camp Nou in the last round of fixtures but eventually fell 2-1 after Jordi Alba’s stoppage-time strike.

Barcelona lead the group with all nine points on offer from their first three games. Celtic are second with four, while Spartak have three and Benfica just the one point.

Should Barcelona win, as many pundits predict, the Russian side’s trek to Benfica on Wednesday could have a huge bearing on the shape of the group.

The Portuguese side hold the home advantage but have not won in their past five Champions League matches.

Spartak will be full of hope having thrashed Krylya Sovetov 5-0 in the Russian Premier League on Saturday and they have scored in all of their past 10 European away matches.

Tue 6 November, 2012
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