Barcelona vLokomotiv Moscow
Barcelona fans will tonight get to see summer signing Juan Roman Riquelme make his first start for the Nou Camp club, as they take on Lokomotiv Moscow in Group H.
Supporters have been crying out for coach Louis Van Gaal to select the Argentinian playmaker from the start – especially as the Catalan club’s recent league form has plummeted so dismally.
“It has been understandable for the crowd to chant for him while we have not been winning in the Spanish league, because the fans want their idol,” said Van Gaal.
“I am sure that against Lokomotiv he will show all his qualities.”
Riquelme gets his chance after Barca legend Luis Enrique picked up an achilles injury. They are also missing Tiago Motta, Swede Patrik Andersson, Michael Reiziger, Philippe Christanval and Fabio Rochemback. Flying winger Marc Overmars is ready to return, although he is likely to take a place among the substitutes.
Barcelona are running away with Group H and hold a 100 per cent winning record, but under-pressure Van Gaal knows that a good result is important to take the heat off after a slump in the league. They lost to Valladollid at the weekend and the Dutchman is keen for things to improve, particularly at the back.
“We have to make sure that we do not concede any more stupid goals,” he said.
“The team did not play badly against Valladolid and we created many chances.”
Lokomotiv are virtually out, but do hold on to a slim chance of qualifying. They are flying at home, and lead the Russian Premier-Liga after beating FC Torpedo-ZIL Moskva 3-0 at the weekend.
“I thought they were a good technical side whose first touch on the ball was excellent when we played them three weeks ago,” said Barca’s Dutch star Philip Cocu.
“We will have to perform at our top level if we are to win.”
The Russians are without suspended South African defender Jacob Lekcetho, while Azerbaijani midfielder Narvik Sirkhayev and defender Gennadi Nizhegorodov are injured.
Barcelona: Bonano/V¡ctor Valdes, Puyol, Frank de Boer, Navarro, Xavi, Cocu, Mendieta, Gabri, Saviola, Riquelme, Kluivert.
Lokomotiv: Ovchinnikov, Obradovic, Ignashevic, Sennikov, Drozdov, Evseev, Maminov, Loskov, Julio C‚sar, Pimenov, Obiorah.
Club Brugge v Galatasaray
After holding Gala to a scoreless draw in Turkey on Matchday Three, Club Brugge are now in an excellent position to pull themselves right back into the fight for second place.
Victory would see Brugge climb above theiropponents into second place behind runaway group leaders Barcelona. A win tonight would also see Brugge gain a better record in the meetings between the two clubs, and send them through to the next phase if they were to finish level on points.
It is a complicated situation, as coach Trond Sollied acknowledged.
“If we do not win, a draw is good for us, but a 0-0, not a 1-1 as that would be positive for Galatasaray and against us if we finish level,” he said.
Brugge are the dominant force in Belgium at the moment, and a 3-2 win at Charleroi on Saturday extended their lead in the league to five points.
Tonight they are missing key midfielder Serhiy Serebrennikov with a knee injury, while Norwegian striker and defender Marek Spilar are longer-term casualties. Striker Andres Mendoza is also absent after breaching club discipline.
Of course if the Turkish side win, they would make a huge leap towards qualification and leave Brugge with an almost impossible task to progress.
“This match is very important for us. We come here for a win,” said coach Fatih Terim. But he did move to suggest the pressure was firmly on their opponents.
“If we lose the game we will still have the advantage. I think they will play differently as they need the points more than us,” he said.
Former Milan youngster Mohammed Sarr is the only serious injury doubt for Gala. Striker Arif Erdem, Brazilian Joao Batista and Cihan Haspolatli are all expected to be fit enough to play.