Barcelona aims to win group with win in Amsterdam
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona superstar Andres Iniesta celebrates a goal against Granada during a Spanish La Liga match. AFP PhotoInjury-struck Barcelona can ensure it finishes top of Champions League Group H with just a point when it travels to face Ajax tonight.
Gerardo Martino’s men have already qualified for the last-16 and shrugged off the absence of Lionel Messi and Victor Valdes among others to maintain their place atop La Liga with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Granada on Nov. 23.
Cesc Fabregas was on target once more at the weekend and he has echoed his coach’s calls for there to be no excuses despite the absence of a number of key players.
“We want to be prepared for everything that is coming,” he said. “There is total unity in the group and understanding with the coach. We need to try so that the other players aren’t missed and we managed that against Granada, but we are talking about very important players.”
The Catalans will be boosted by the return of Xavi Hernandez after he sat out the Granada match with a hamstring problem.
However, Adriano has joined Jordi Alba and Adriano on the sidelines, leaving Martin Montoya as the only senior full-back available to Martino.
Their absence could see Carles Puyol make a return to right-back, where he began his career, or 20-year-old Barça B prospect Patric may be handed his debut after being included in Martino’s 19-man squad for the trip to Amsterdam.
Despite his side’s injury problems, Martino has still selected a strong squad and the likes of Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar are all expected to start.
Ajax, meanwhile, still has aspirations of joining Barça in the last-16 as it lies third in the group, but just a point behind Milan with the Dutch champions still to travel to Italy on matchday six.
However, Frank de Boer’s men could be without two of their more influential attacking players as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Siem de Jong are doubtful after picking up injuries on international duty last week.
Both men missed a 3-0 home win over Heracles on Nov. 23, as Ajax stayed just two points behind Vitesse atop the Eredivisie.
Danny Hoesen and Davy Klaasen made their claim to be included as both scored in De Jong and Sigthorsson’s absence.
However, De Boer knows that much more will be required if they are to take something from Barcelona tonight.
“It’s good for their confidence that they scored. They did their best, but I know they can both still do much better,” he told the club’s website.