Barça face BATE Borisov on Wednesday at Camp Nou at 8.45pm CET in the knowledge that a win against the side from Belarus could put them through to the knock out stages for the 12th season in a row should AS Roma fail to beat Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the other Group E fixture. The Belarusians are currently in third place in the group on 3 points, one behind second placed Bayer and so still have hope of making it to the last 16 themselves.
Luis Enrique’s side trained for the final time at the Ciutat Esportiva on Tuesday ahead of the clash with BATE. The Barça boss will be without the injured Leo Messi, Rafinha and Douglas for the visit of their Group E rivals but Javier Mascherano, who missed Saturday’s league win at Getafe through suspension, isback in the squad in place of Jeremy Mathieu. Andrés Iniesta came on in the second half against Getafe to make his comeback from injury and is in the squad. Thomas Vermaelen is also included in the list which was named by coach Luis Enrique on Wednesday morning with the Belgian keen to make his Champions League debut for the blaugranes.
BATE Borisov come to Camp Nou with former blaugrana Alexander Hleb amongst the travelling party. The 34 year old midfielder missed the 2-0 defeat for his side in Belarus just over two weeks ago due to injury but coach Aleksandr Yermakovich has hinted that Hleb could well figure on Wednesday against his former club.
Luis Enrique made an appearance in front of the press on Tuesday ahead of his side’s Group E fixture with BATE. The Barça boss is focused on just one objective for side on Wednesday at Camp Nou: “The goal is to qualify, and do it as first in the group. The groups are competitive, and anything can happen. But as the defending champions we must send a message that we are ready.”
His counterpart Aleksandr Yermakovich also spoke to the press on Tuesday in Barcelona. The BATE boss did not hide the task facing his team and admitted to be “aware that we are coming up against the best club in the world, because they have top players and they all have quality.”
Barça have won seven straight matches at Camp Nou in the Champions League, the latest coming in Group E this season in the form of the 2-1 comeback win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the end of September. The blaugranes’ 2-0 away win at Getafe in the league at the weekend was their third in a row in the domestic competition and leaves them joint top of the table with rivals Real Madrid on 24 points after 10 matches.
For their part BATE clinched their tenth successive league title just before the defeat against Barça in Borisov on 20 October. Since then they have put together back to back wins, the latest being the 1-0 victoryaway at Dinamo Brest on Saturday.
The in form Sergi Roberto has fond memories of meeting BATE Borisov as it was in the only previous meeting at Camp Nou between the side that he scored his first ever goal in official competition for the first team. That strike came in a 4-0 win for the blaugranes in the group stages of the Champions League back in December 2011. Barça have lost just once in their last 34 matches at home in the competition, winning 27 of those games in that time.