Barcelona take on Spartak Moscow on the fifth match day of the UEFA Champions League knowing that a win or even a draw would be enough to take them through to the next round of the competition that they have made their own in the last decade, winning three titles in that span.
The Blaugrana were on a rampaging run in the competition and had the unique record of not losing a group match for the last three years – a run that came to an abrupt end when they lost 2-1 to Scottish giants Celtic in the last match day. Although they comfortably outplayed the Scottish champions on the night and had a staggering 89% possession of the ball as opposed to only 11% for Celtic, two strikes that exposed the frailty of Barcelona’s defense was enough for The Hoops to register a famous win.
Even Lionel Messi couldn’t inspire his side to a comeback and Tito Vilanova suffered his first defeat in two months after the Spanish Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. Barcelona are on a rampaging run in la Liga and even in this early phase of the season, they have opened up a eight point lead over arch rivals Real Madrid and it is already being said that the lead they have opened up is too big for even Real to overcome.
In Europe, the club will look to make it their third title in five years after suffering a semi final defeat at the hands of eventual winners Chelsea after completely outplaying them over the two legs. They defeated the Russian side 3-2 at home after being down twice in the match and Spartak manager Unai Emery has already conceded that they will not be playing in Europe after December. However, they will look to go out with a bang and not be thought of as the whipping boys of the group.
With the entire defense out for a considerable period, Barcelona will be proud of what they have achieved but the return of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique for the match will, no doubt, add a lot of steel to defense of the side and they will look to keep the Spartak attackers out so that they can get the one point they need to secure their progression into the next round of the competition, something they have done with consistency over the last decade.