Sporting CP will be looking to capitalise on Barcelona’s recent dip in form when they meet in the final round of the Champions League group stages at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
5 December 2017
UEFA Champions League
Group A Matchday 6
Kick-off: 21:45 (GMT+2)
Venue: Camp Nou
Referee: C. Thomson
Assistants: A. Mulvanny, G. Stewart
Fourth official: S. Stevenson
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Barcelona 3 3 0 0
Sporting CP 3 0 0 3
Sporting CP 0-1 Barcelona – 27/09/2017 (UEFA Champions League)
Barcelona goalscorers: S. Coates (49′ OG)
Players to watch
With Lionel Messi possibly being rested against the Lions in midweek, Barca will be hoping that Luis Suarez comes to the party. The Uruguay international has struggled to get going this season, with just six goals to his name in 16 appearances across all competitions.
Suarez recently ended a five-game drought with his brace against Leganes and got on the scoresheet in the 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Bas Dost leads the scoring charts for Sporting this term 10 goals in the Primeira Liga and another two in Europe. The Blaugrana will need to keep a close eye on the Netherlands international, who has found the back of the net eight times in his last seven games, including a hat-trick against Chaves.
Team form and manager quotes
Prior to the 1-1 stalemate with Juventus on matchday 5, Ernesto Valverde’s side had failed to take maximum points just twice this season – against Atletico Madrid and Olympiacos.
But they have managed only one victory in their last four matches, dropping points against Valencia and Celta Vigo as well. Barca still hold a five-point lead at the top of La Liga, while they are unbeaten in five group matches on the continent.
Valverde remains wary of the Portuguese outfit, who lost by a solitary goal in the reverse fixture and provided a stern test for Juve in their two ties.
“Sporting forced Juventus to come from behind in both of their group matches which tells you something,” the Spanish coach said in his pre-match press conference.
“In their stadium they played on the counterattack against us but now that they need a win here, I’m not sure how they will play. However, my guess is that they’ll push forward and try to impose a more attacking style.”
Sporting have not lost since going down 2-1 to the Bianconeri on October 10. They are unbeaten in the Portuguese top flight with an inferior goal difference all that separates them and FC Porto at the summit.
A 1-0 success over Belenenses on Friday made it four wins on the bounce in all competitions for Jorge Jesus’ team, and their manager has put plans in place to make life difficult for Barca once more.
“Given Messi didn’t start against Juventus in Turin, I’ve got a feeling he might not start against us either – but it’s only a suspicion,” Jesus told the press on Monday.
“Anyway, whether Messi plays or not won’t change our strategy much. We have a Plan A, where he plays, and a Plan B, where he doesn’t – and we’ll stick to those.”
Samuel Umtiti became Barca’s latest casualty when he limped off against Celta with a hamstring injury that will keep him on the sidelines for eight weeks.
Andres Iniesta also picked up a knock at the weekend and will miss the visit of the Lions. Javier Mascherano, Rafinha and Ousmane Dembele continue to be unavailable through injury, while Arda Turan is rated doubtful.
The trip to Catalonia will come too soon for Seydou Doumbia, who has been sidelined for the past month with a muscular problem. Jonathan Silva is the only other absentee for the visitors.