Monday 22 January 2018

Leverkusen hoping to make most of Messi absence

Bayer Leverkusen are hoping to take advantage of the absence of Messi
Bayer Leverkusen are hoping to take advantage of the absence of Messi

Jamie Holland

Bayer Leverkusen are hoping to capitalise on the absence of Lionel Messi when they face Barcelona at the Nou Camp tonight.

Messi, who scored a total of 60 goals and set up 28 more in 60 appearances to help Barca capture a Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey treble last season, hurt his left knee in Saturday's 2-1 win against Las Palmas and will be sidelined for up to two months.

The Argentina captain joins Brazilian midfielder Rafinha, who will be out for six months after undergoing knee surgery, on the injured list.

Barca coach Luis Enrique believes his team can prosper in adversity, starting in tonight's Champions League Group E match.

"This is a test and another point of motivation. We now get to see what we are made of and I have no doubt that we will be okay," he said.

Enrique is expected to field a 4-4-2 formation, with in-form Luis Suarez playing alongside Neymar in attack.

Suarez scored both goals in the win over Las Palmas to lift Barca to second in La Liga, one point adrift of league leaders Villarreal and one clear of Real Madrid six games into the season.

Barca, who began their Champions League title defence with a 1-1 draw at Roma, have reason to be confident.

Since losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in May 2013, they are unbeaten at home in the competition, winning their last six games at the Nou Camp.

Bayer, who thumped BATE Borisov 4-1 in their group opener at the BayArena, warmed up for tonight's match by beating Werder Bremen 3-0 on Saturday.

Barca have beaten Leverkusen in their previous five meetings. The last time the sides met was in the 2011-12 round of 16, with the Catalans thumping the German outfit 7-1.

Bayern Munich are likely to be without midfielders Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Rode against Dinamo Zagreb, who will be defending a 45-match unbeaten run.

Bayern, who have won every one of their games this season, are already without wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery as well as defenders Medhi Benatia and Holger Badstuber.

Dinamo, who beat Arsenal 3-2 in their opening group tie, have not lost in any competition since going down 1-0 to Astra Giurgiu in the Europa League last November.

Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen

Live, Setanta 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport