Injury crisis continues for Barcelona

IANS| Updated: Nov 25, 2013, 20:21 PM IST

Madrid: FC Barcelona`s injury crisis continues as they look to assure first position in their qualifying group of the Champions League, when they will take on Ajax of Amsterdam Tuesday night.

A win over Ajax will assure Barca as the group leaders, the advantage of playing the return leg of the knockout round at home, and a theoretically easier tie in the next round, reports Xinhua.

Barcelona showed Saturday that injuries to players such as Xavi Hernandez, Lionel Messi, Dani Alves and Victor Valdes is not going to stop them winning games with ease in Spain as they beat Granada 4-0 in the Camp Nou Stadium.

Xavi will be able to play in Amsterdam, given that his absence at the weekend was more for precaution after the marathon trip with the Spanish national team, but his return is balanced out by the loss of left back Adriano, who will miss the trip with a twisted ankle.

Barca coach Tata Martino is already without Jordi Alba, who is putting the finishing touches to his return after a long-term muscle injury and has decided to call B-team defenders Sergi Gomez and Patric Gabarron into his squad, although the most likely solution would be for Martin Montoya to play on the left, as he has done on occasions, and Carles Puyol to play at right back.

Meanwhile with Messi out for around six weeks, the question is whether he will risk Neymar from the start, knowing that the young Brazilian will be vital to his side while the Argentine genius is sidelined and that next weekend sees Barca face a trip to play Athletic Club Bilbao, who have so far not lost in their San Mames Stadium this season.

Ajax will bear in mind that Barca had few problems in defeating them 0-4 earlier this season, but the side coached by former Barca defender, Frank de Boer will be aware that a win against the Catalans will give them a fighting chance of making the knockout stages themselves.

Tuesday night will also witness Atletico Madrid travel to face Zenit St. Petersburg. Atletico travel already assured of a place in the last 16 of the competition and as winners of their qualifying group and coach Diego Simeone has already announced he will rest key players for the domestic game next weekend.