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Can Barca survive without Lionel Messi?

By: Mario Amaya

Neymar is one of the best players in the world and will have to step up for Barcelona while the team is without Lionel Messi.

Neymar is one of the best players in the world and will have to step up for Barcelona while the team is without Lionel Messi.

Tuesday night FC Barcelona will continue the defense of their Champions League title at the mythical Camp Nou, when they play host to German club Bayer Leverkusen. Barcelona will be eager to win all three points at home, after they started off the title of their defense with 2-2 draw against AS Roma in Italy, and look to take command of their group. Meanwhile, Leverkusen will look to keep first place in the group, after they beat Belarusian Bate Borisov at home, 4-1.

Barcelona has had an unusual start to the season. Currently in second in Spain’s La Liga, they have not been the juggernaut that we have accustomed to see in the league in the last two games. They suffered their first loss of the season on the road to Celta de Vigo, 4-1, and had an unusual nail-biting 2-1 victory against Las Palmas on Saturday at home. But, form has not only been the issue Barcelona has had to face as of late. Injuries to some of their key players like goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, Jordi Alba and Rafihnia has hurt the club early in the season has affected the team’s performance in the last few weeks. But no injury has affected the team more than the injury to Argentinian superstar and face of the club Lionel Messi.

Messi will be out for the next six to eight weeks with a ligament tear on his knee, which he suffered in the team’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas on Saturday. Now Barcelona will be forced to live without him as they face the toughest part of their schedule, and his injury will force other key players such Neymar, Luis Saurez and Ivan Rakitic to step up to the call of being the new difference maker for the team.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen is currently sitting in fifth in the German Bundesliga, and has won their last two games, which includes a convincing 3-0 win over the weekend against Werder Bremen. This convincing victory included solid performances from star goalkeeper Bernd Leno and Mexican forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who was strong coming off the bench. Both will need to be instrumental for the team to have any success on Tuesday in Barcelona while star midfielders Karim Bellarabi, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, and Christoph Kramer must perform at a high level. Also, the speediness of top German national prospect Julian Brandt and the scoring abilities of forwards Kevin Kampl and Stefan Kiessling will sure to give the Barca backline to the test.

The last time these two clubs met was in the knockout stage of the 2011/2012 Champions League. Barcelona, who was coached by Pep Guardiola at the time, destroyed Leverkusen 10-2 on aggregate. This includes 7-1 victory of the Blaugrana in the Camp Nou. Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League in that series, while Bellarabi scored the consolation goal for the German side.

Match Prediction: It will be interesting to see how Barcelona will play without Messi out there, and with their run of form as of late, but Suarez and Neymar are talented enough to step up for Barcelona in Messi’s absence. Barcelona will ink out another nail-biter and win this game, 3-2.

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Mario Amaya

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