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Messi returns as Barcelona eye last 16 against Roma

Fresh from thrashing bitter rivals Real Madrid 4-0 at the weekend, Barcelona are aiming to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League when Roma visit the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The European champions need just a point to reach the knockout stages for a 12th consecutive season, and should be further boosted by the presence of Lionel Messi from the start for the first time in two months.

Messi made his return as a substitute from a knee-ligament injury with Barca already leading 3-0 against Madrid and played his part in Luis Suarez’s second goal of the evening to round off an historic night for the Catalans.

Suarez and Neymar have kept Barca afloat without Messi, scoring 24 of their last 28 goals in all competitions.

And with a win also sealing top spot in the group, Barca boss Luis Enrique is unlikely to rest any of his star front three even ahead of a busy few weeks in league, Cup and Champions League before they fly off to Japan for the World Club Cup at the end of December.

Whilst it would take a remarkable collapse for Barca not to qualify, Roma have it all to play for in their final two group games if they are to make the last 16 for the first time in five years.

The Italians sit second in the group, a point clear of Bayer Leverkusen and two ahead of BATE Borisov, who they host in their final game.

Roma got their campaign off to a great start by holding Barca to a 1-1 draw in the Italian capital thanks to Alessandro Florenzi’s sensational strike from just over the halfway line.

And he believes they can produce another upset at the Camp Nou.

“It will certainly be difficult. They’re the strongest side in the world, but we managed to produce something of an exploit against them at the Stadio Olimpico,” Florenzi told Corriere dello Sport.

“We have to be fearless in Spain and determined to make the most of our chances.”

In contrast to Barca’s brilliance, Roma’s inconsistent domestic campaign continued with a 2-2 draw in terrible weather conditions at Bologna on Saturday.

Rudi Garcia will also have to do without a number of attacking options as Gervinho and Mohamed Salah miss out through injury, whilst captain Francesco Totti hasn’t featured since suffering a thigh injury two months ago.

Photo Credits : AFP

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