Barcelona sets sights on Champions League

Barcelona sets sights on Champions League

LEVERKUSEN, Germany - The Associated Press
Barcelona sets sights on Champions League

After falling 10 points behind leader Real Madrid in La Liga, Barcelona is more likely to focus on its title defense in the Champions League. The Catalan heavyweights take on Bayer Leverkusen tonight in the first leg of the Champions League second round. AP photo

With hopes of a fourth consecutive Spanish league title fading, Barcelona is turning its full attention to defending its European crown - which is bad news for Bayer Leverkusen.

Both sides are having domestic troubles going into their meeting in tonight’s Champions League round of 16 first-leg match, but it is arguably Barcelona which has more to prove.

Weekend’s 3-2 loss at Osasuna, coupled with Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Levante, left the defending Spanish champion 10 points behind its bitter rival, which has dropped only eight points all season.
“We’ll go to Europe to defend our title,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said.

Leverkusen has problems of its own, having claimed only one win in its last seven games while the club is at odds with its midfielder Michael Ballack.

The former Germany captain hasn’t played for Leverkusen since managing director Wolfgang Holzhaeuser described his transfer back to the club as a “failure.” Leverkusen failed to win any of the three games in which Ballack remained an unused substitute, but the 35-year-old tore a calf muscle in training last week.

Leverkusen missed their attacking presence in the 1-0 loss Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, when the side looked anything but inspired.

“On Tuesday, it could be a tick more difficult,” Dutt said.

Leverkusen is currently sixth in the Bundesliga.

“We’re not dreamers but realists,” said Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler.

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol insisted that the Catalans were focused on all competitions. “We’ll fight to the end in all three competitions, whoever thinks the opposite is wrong,” he warned, adding the players were “not machines” that could be connected one day and disconnected the next. “We have to give everything every game, and we’ll do this until the end of season.”