barcaMADRID: Defending champions Barcelona could seal their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare in Group E when they host BATE Borisov yesterday. A third consecutive Champions League victory for the Catalans, despite the prolonged absence of the injured Lionel Messi, allied to Roma not beating Bayer Leverkusen at home, will mathematically seal the five-time champions’ place in the knockout stages. Luis Suarez and Neymar have carried the goalscoring burden in Messi’s absence, scoring all of Barca’s last 14 league goals. Both were on target in a comfortable 2-0 win over Getafe on Saturday that created more headlines for the Halloween costumes that the Barca players wore as they burst into a Getafe post-match press conference than the action on the field. And Suarez said he and Neymar’s contrasting styles help compliment each other.

“Everyone knows their own game. I don’t try to dribble past three or four players, but Neymar has those characteristics. “Every player tries to adapt to what the coach asks of them.” However, the former Liverpool striker laughed off suggestions Barca’s recent form means they aren’t missing Messi. “Everyone remembers Messi because he is the best player in the world. We all miss him.” Barca boss Luis Enrique heaped praise upon Sergio Busquets rather than Suarez and Neymar after the win at Getafe, hailing him as the “best midfielder in the world.”

However, Enrique also suggested he wants to give Busquets a rest after a heavy workload at the start of the season and with a tough test in Villarreal to come at the weekend, the Spanish international may be left out on Wednesday. Javier Mascherano is free to play despite being halfway though a two-game ban in La Liga. Andres Iniesta is also likely to return to the starting line-up for the first time in over a month after making his return from a hamstring injury as a second-half substitute at the weekend. Sergi Roberto also made his comeback against Getafe from a brief spell on the sidelines after picking up a groin injury in Barca’s 2-0 win over BATE in Belarus two weeks ago. And the 23-year-old made a spectacular impression with assists for both goals, including a perfectly weighted backheel into Suarez’s path for the opener. “After an injury it is important to get back up to the speed of the competition. I felt good physically and without any pain,” he said. — AFP