FC Barcelona vs Borussia Dortmund: UEFA Champions League - Preview and Prediction
FC Barcelona will host Borussia Dortmund at the Camp Nou in a UEFA Champions League fixture on Wednesday night. Ernesto Valverde's outfit knows that a win will secure them a knock-out berth, with one game to spare.
But, victory for Dortmund would not only put the German side in the first place, and might leave Barca needing to avoid defeat against Internazionale at the San Siro.
The Catalans sit atop the La Liga leaderboard on goal difference, on the same points as Real Madrid. Even then, a positive result against Dortmund should ease the pressure on Valverde, going forward.
After Friday's 3-3 draw with Paderborn in the Bundesliga, Lucien Favre was apparently informed that he must improve the results, for him to keep his job at the Westfalenstadion.
With Dortmund now down in sixth place in the standings, it is high time they stepped up the ante, considering the rich talent they have at their disposal.
Nevertheless, Dortmund have enjoyed a solid Champions League campaign thus far, which has put them in a strong position regarding qualification for the next round.
Gerard Pique is one of a number of Barcelona defenders who are sidelined for this game, with the centre-back set to serve a one-match ban. Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba will miss out through injury.
Arthur may come back into contention after being left out at the weekend, although Arturo Vidal is seemingly ahead of the Brazilian in the pecking order.
Sergi Roberto is likely to start at right-back having been suspended for Saturday's league match, with full-backs Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba still sidelined.
Junior Firpo will deputise for Alba. Clement Lenglet had suffered a calf injury last weekend, but looks all set to partner Samuel Umtiti at the back.
For Dortmund, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard are both in line for a recall. Jadon Sancho is likely to remain in the starting lineup, while Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi is a sure starter.
Striker Paco Alcacer will miss out against former club Barcelona after coming off at half-time in Saturday's 3-3 draw with Paderborn with injury.
With Alcacer ruled out, Lucien Favre must decide whether to start Mario Gotze up front or push Marco Reus further forward.
Raphael Guerreiro and Nico Schulz are in competition for a starting berth at left-back for Dortmund.
Lionel Messi vs Mats Hummels
The less said about Lionel Messi, the better. The Argentine maestro has been tearing apart opposition defences for fun, in the UEFA Champions League.
This season, Messi has scored and assisted once, from 3 appearances in Europe's premier club competition. But some of his other statistics are mindnumbing, in the sense that he has 4.5 shots and 7 dribbles per game.
Messi, will however, not have it all easy, though. Marking him constantly will be the talismanic defender, Mats Hummels.
The former World Cup winner for Germany is an accomplished defender and has all the required attributes to stop the Barcelona attack.
Tall, fast and agile, Hummels is incredibly comfortable with the ball at his feet. The Dortmund centreback is excellent in the air, and does not commit early.
He has 4.5 clearances and 4.3 interceptions per game, in 4 Champions League appearances this season. This battle between Messi and Hummels will be an exciting watch.
Junior Firpo vs Achraf Hakimi
With Jordi Alba set to miss out on this upcoming fixture, it will be the young Junior Firpo who will be filling the Spaniard's giant boots.
Firpo is vastly inexperienced, although the youngster is talented enough to cope with whatever hurdles he is likely to face.
From 5 La Liga matches, he has registered 1.8 tackles and 1 interception per game. The game against Dortmund is going to be his first match in the Champions League.
Firpo is certain to face a baptism of fire when he will be up against Dortmund's fiery right-back-cum-winger, Achraf Hakimi.
Hakimi is supremely fast, and the former Real Madrid man will have a point to prove at the Camp Nou, when he dons the yellow jersey.
The Moroccan has amassed 4 goals from as many appearances in the Champions League, and has set the group stage ablaze thus far,
Hakimi will look to take advantage of Junior Firpo's pre-game jitters, and it will be interesting to see if the winger is able to make crucial headways.
Prediction: FC Barcelona 3 - 1 Borussia Dortmund