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Preview: Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Sports Mole previews the Champions League action as Barcelona prepare to host travelling Bayer Leverkusen at the Camp Nou in Group E.

Barcelona welcome travelling Bayer Leverkusen to the Camp Nou in Group E of the Champions League on Tuesday with Luis Enrique hoping to lead his side to their first win after opening matchday one with a draw.

Roger Schmidt's men, meanwhile, come into the game off the back of a comfortable opening win against BATE Borisov and will be seeking to cause a shock away from home.


Barcelona

Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and UD Las Palmas at Camp Nou on September 26, 2015© Getty Images

Enrique's men come into their first home clash of the tournament off the back of a hard-fought draw away at Roma, which saw Alessandro Florenzi score a memorable strike to cancel out an opener from Luis Suarez.

The Catalan club will be pleased with the point away from home, but will know that nothing more than three points will do when they host Leverkusen on Tuesday night.

The current champions come into the game having beaten Las Palmas 2 -1 over the weekend, although they will now be without key frontman Lionel Messi, who could miss the next two months after tearing a ligament in his left knee.

Despite Messi's absence, Barca have plenty of other talent to call on and the Argentine's fellow forwards Suarez and Neymar have already proven capable of playing their part in pushing Enrique's side to five wins from six games so far this season.

As well as some impressive league form to look back on, Barcelona also hold a standout record against Bayer. Over their past five fixtures in the Champions League, the Catalonian club have won all five games while scoring 16 goals in the process.

Barca have a formidable history in recent times in the European showpiece and they will be expecting to extend a run that has seen them remain undefeated in 11 of their last 12 matches in the Champions League.

Recent form (all competitions): WWDWLW


Bayer Leverkusen

Leverkusen's midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu celebrates scoring with Slovenian midfielder Kevin Kampl (R) and Brazilian defender Wendell during the UEFA Champions League group E first leg football match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Bate Borisov in Lever© Getty Images

Leverkusen travel to Spain having opened their Champions League campaign with a comfortable 4-1 win over BATE Borisov.

The German club were able to hold off any pressure of expectation in that game in order to pick up three points that could prove vital come the end of the group stage. With fixtures against Barcelona and Roma also in the offing, Schmidt will be fully aware of the importance of picking up the easier points in the group.

Regardless of the news of Messi's injury, the German club will have to deal with a number of threats from the home side on Tuesday, but will be looking to do what they can to steal something from the clash by using their confidence gained from back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga.

Schmidt's charges had found themselves on the end of three consecutive defeats until recently, with Leverkusen managing to turn themselves around in order to defeat both Werder Bremen and Mainz 05 in their last two domestic games.

Bayer currently find themselves in fifth position in the Bundesliga table and they will be looking to continue to build on some positive defensive performances that have left them conceding just over one goal per game - representing the fifth best defence on record in the league so far this season.

What might be a slight concern for the German side on Tuesday night will be their lack of goals this term, with the side collecting just seven domestically from seven games.

European nights can often play out much differently, however, and the continental experience of Stefan Kiessling and Javier Hernandez could help the club out going forward. Bayer will also be looking to the creativity of Hakan Calhanoglu in midfield after he bagged two goals in their victory over BATE.

Recent form (all competitions): LLWLWW


Team News

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) leaves the picht after being injured during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona v UD Las Palmas at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 26, 2015© Getty Images

Barcelona fans could expect to see both Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves return to their starting XI after being rested against Las Palmas at the weekend.

Thomas Vermaelen and Jordi Alba are doubts for the match, while Messi, Claudio Bravo and Rafinha will all remain on the sidelines through injury.

Messi's absence could give Munir El Haddadi the chance to gain some European experience alongside Suarez and Neymar in the home side's forward line.

Leverkusen should field key pair Calhanoglu and Kevin Kampl after they made appearances off the bench in the Bundesliga last time out, but there will likely be no place for Roberto Hilbert at the back. Tin Jedvaj, Charles Aranguiz and Omer Toprak are all out through injury too.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Stegen; Adriano, Mascherano, Pique, Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic; Neymar, Suarez, Haddadi

Bayer Leverkusen possible starting lineup:
Leno; Wendell, Papadopoulos, Tah, Donati; Kramer, Bender; Kampl, Calhanoglu, Bellarabi; Kiessling


Head To Head

Barcelona hold control over Bayer when the statistics are observed, with the champions beating the German outfit in all five of their last encounters. Leverkusen's last trip to the Camp Nou ended in a 7-1 defeat in the knockout stages back in March 2012, in a game that saw Messi become first player to score five goals in a single Champions League game. Bayer's only win in this tournament against the Blaugrana came in September 2001, but that victory was played out on German soil.


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We say: Barcelona 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Barcelona will be itching to grab their first win in the tournament when they turn out on home soil, and it must not be forgotten that they are facing a team that has won just three and lost 10 of their 15 visits to Spain in continental competitions. Barca have been able to score at least two in each of their last five matches against Leverkusen and should have too much attacking quality to come away with anything less than a win.



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Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior after scoring a goal on a penalty kick during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium
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