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Barca start big week with UCL clash

20 October 2014, 15:03

MADRID — Barcelona's Luis Enrique faces one of the toughest weeks in his coaching career as his squad hosts Ajax in a Champions League Group F match on Tuesday before travelling to Real Madrid at the weekend for La Liga's first Clasico of the season.

Enrique's approach has been to calm things down and lessen the importance of the Bernabeu clash, describing it as "not decisive." Barcelona has a four-point advantage over its archrival in La Liga.

Of more immediate concern is his team's need to recover from the three Champions League points dropped in a 3-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in their last European outing.

Meanwhile, group leader PSG travels to Cyprus to play APOEL Nicosia.

Here are some things to look out for in Tuesday's matches:


Enrique will be relying on his squad maintaining a disciplined defensive strategy as a secure base from which to launch the scoring talent of Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has yet to concede a goal in the club's eight league matches.

The hosts will also be boosted by a record that has yet to seen them lose at home to Dutch opposition, with just one defeat in their last 28 home Champions League matches.

Enrique knows Ajax coach Frank de Boer well, having been his Barcelona teammate from 1999 to 2003.

Gathering information from the stands will be Barcelona's suspended striker, Luis Suarez, who scored 81 goals for Ajax from 2007 to 2011. However, Barcelona will be without defender Adriano who picked up a right leg muscle injury at the weekend.

Also read: Suarez receives Golden Boot


Coach Laurent Blanc must have been scratching his head this weekend looking at PSG's growing injury list, and he has a big decision to make with regards to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Sweden star has missed seven straight games — five in the league for PSG and two with Sweden — as he tries to shake of a nagging heel injury.

With Edinson Cavani suspended for PSG's crucial league game against title rival Bordeaux next weekend, Blanc may be better off resting Ibrahimovic against Apoel Nicosia, even if he is fit to play, rather than rushing him back.

But Apoel's strong home form and fervent support could prove problematic for a PSG side considerably weakened in defense.

Thiago Silva has been out for more than two months with a hamstring injury and pulled out of Friday's home game against Lens — hours after Blanc said he was fit. David Luiz (thigh) Marquinhos (thigh), and left back Lucas Digne (knee) also missed that game, while key midfielder Blaise Matuidi picked up a hip injury. Winger Ezequiel Lavezzi (hamstring) is also out.

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.

- AP


WRAP: English Premiership

23 October 2016, 11:05

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