Holders Barcelona aiming to clinch another last 16 spot

European champions welcome Roma after weekend thrashing of rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu

Lionel Messi: returned to action as a substitute against Real Madrid following his injury-enforced absence. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFPGetty Images

Lionel Messi: returned to action as a substitute against Real Madrid following his injury-enforced absence. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFPGetty Images

 

Holders Barcelona are highly unlikely to have centre back Javier Mascherano available for tonight’s tie at home to AS Roma, coach Luis Enrique said yesterday.

Mascherano, an Argentina international who has been an integral part of Barca’s recent glittering run, was forced off in the first half of Saturday’s 4-0 La Liga win at Real Madrid after taking a blow to the thigh and replaced by Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu.

“Masche has a very big knock on the quadriceps,” said Enrique before the clash against the Italian side at the Nou Camp. “He was not able to train today and the logical thing is that he won’t feature tomorrow because he is a key player for us and we don’t want to take any risks,” added the former Spain midfielder, who had a stint in charge at Roma in 2011-12.

Enrique stopped short of confirming a fit-again Lionel Messi will start against Roma, when a draw for the Spanish and European champions would be enough to secure top spot in the section with a game to spare and reach the last 16 for a 12th consecutive season

Argentina captain Messi returned to action for the first time since injuring his knee at the end of September as a second-half substitute at the Bernabeu.

“He seemed in very good shape to me,” Enrique said.

“It was an enormous joy for everyone in the Barca family to see the world’s best player back on the pitch. All that is needed now is playing time in his legs and to charge his batteries and we can get back to enjoying Leo.”

Last season’s treble winners Barca are on a high after thrashing their arch rivals and full back Dani Alves said it was the best performance against Real he had seen.

Most superior

Roma, second in the group one point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen and two clear of Bate Borisov, were held 2-2 in heavy rain on Saturday by lowly Bologna and are fourth in Serie A.

“We battled hard and tried to play our game despite the weather and the main thing is that we got a point,” fullback Maicon said. “It will be a different type of game on Tuesday and we are going to have to step up a level.”

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