Club Brugge vBarcelona
Barcelona are another team who have chosen to field a weakened side after securing qualification to the next phase of the Champions League.
Barca have a 100 per cent record in Group H, but Brugge are looking to end that run tonight, and will be confident of doing so after looking at their opponents team sheet.
Barca are set to rest Luis Enrique, Gaizka Mendieta, Patrick Kluivert, Javier Saviola, Xavi, Frank De Boer and Roberto Bonano, while Tiago Motta, Marc Overmars, Michael Reiziger and Patrik Andersson remain injured.
Ten young grown youngsters appear in the squad, and Andres Iniesta and Dani Tortolero are to start, as well as German goalkeeper Robert Enke. Gerard, another reserve set to play, sees it as a great chance to prove they are worth a place in the squad.
“This is a good opportunity to demonstrate our qualities having not played much this season,” he said. “For those in the squad that are looking to earn a place it is a good opportunity – the opportunity to start a game is always good,” he insisted.
Coach Louis van Gaal hit back at suggestions that the weakened team would severely disadvantage Brugges’ rivals for second spot, Galatasaray.
“If Galatasaray had already made it through then their coach would use this match as an opportunity to see other players,” he argued.
Whether this isthe case or not, Brugges still have a better chance to secure three points they may not have had if the game had taken place under different circumstances.
“If I had tired and injured players I would do the same, but I understand why Galatasaray are not happy,” sympathised Brugges boss Trond Sollied.
“But it makes me laugh when people say Barcelona won’t field a good team. Even without their best players, Barca are better than every club in Belgium,” he argued.
With the exception of longer-term victims Rune Lange and Serhiy Serebrennikov, Sollied has a fully fit squad to pick from, although Peruvian Andres Mendoza is serving a club suspension. Second placed Brugges are a point ahead of Gala in third, and with tonight’s fixture looking far less daunting than before, Sollied must be licking his lips in anticipation of the Second Phase.
Galatasaray v Lokomotiv
Turkish league leaders Galatasaray are looking to bounce back from last week’s body blow defeat at Brugge by beating bottom team Lokomotiv in Group Htonight.
With Brugge now a point clear of Gala in second place, and facing a severely weakened Barcelona team in the group’s other game, coach Fatih Terim knows that his side must win in Istanbul tonight.
Terim is confident of victory, especially with the notorious home crowd certain to be at most unwelcoming.
“Our fans are going to be a huge factor for us in the match,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the loyalty shown by the fans, particularly when things aren’t going well.
“Sometimes we make mistakes and may not play good football but they back us every time,” he said.
Gala have the daunting prospect of a trip to the Nou Camp in their final fixture, where they will most likely need a victory in order to have a chance of qualification, but Terim refuses to look beyond tonight.
“We did not expect this match would be that important but you have to be ready for every situation in football,” he explained.
“We are planning to concentrate fully on the upcoming match and then wait and see for our last match.”
Lokomotiv, with only one point to show so far are all but out, and need maximum points from their remaining two games to stand a chance of second place. But coach Yuri Semin remmains defiant.
“I draw optimism from the fact that our fate is still in our hands. If we win the remaining two games, we can even be second,” he said.
“However, it will be an uphill task for us to beat both Brugge and Galatasaray. But we will do all we can to take our chance,” he promised.
Lokomotiv, who are second in the Russian league championship, welcome back international defender Gennady Nizhegorodov from injury and Jacob Lekgetho after suspension. But midfielders Marat Izmailov and Narvik Sirkhaev are still out.
For Galatasaray, Brazilian midfielder Joao Batista is fit again, but Liberian international Mohamed Sarr misses out once more through injury.