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Barcelona: Assessing their Champions League opponents

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Barcelona could afford a wry smile once the Champions League group stage draw had been made.

For once, the draw was kind to the Catalans who should approach the six group games without fear. Indeed, complacency would appear to be their only enemy to progression at this juncture.

Of course, Barca's opponents cannot be discounted completely and all will do their level best to topple the group favourites. 

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But do they have the quality throughout the side to do so? Let's run the rule over each one...

Bayer Leverkusen

Roger Schmidt's side won't need reminding of their last visit to Camp Nou when Lionel Messi plundered five in a 7-1 win.

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The Germans will be hoping for a much better showing and in signing players of the calibre of Javier Hernandez from Manchester United, they have every chance of doing so.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Stefan Kiesling also provide attacking industry and purpose at its best.

Of the rest, Lars Bender will present a sufficient defensive midfield presence and a decent performance against Barca will certainly enhance his own credentials.

The recent 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich was expected but still wouldn't have pleased Schmidt. Neither would the first leg loss to Lazio which saw Leverkusen have to put in every last ounce of effort to reach this stage.

A lot will have been learned in Munich, particularly the way that Leverkusen were let exposed time and again down the channels. 

Rich pickings for any Barca player willing to get forward at every opportunity.

AS Roma

Their loss to Barcelona in the Gamper Trophy, Barca's traditional Camp Nou curtain raiser before the start of the season, was Roma's last.

All-conquering Juventus have shed some heavyweight players and in so-doing haven't started the season off at all well, Roma being one of the teams to defeat them leaving them joint bottom of the Serie A table.

Six goals against Sevilla and three against Valencia in pre-season should be enough of a hint to ex-Roma manager Luis Enrique that his old side aren't there to make up the numbers and will be pushing hard for top spot.

Former Barca man Seydou Keita will captain a team of winners and the front players will scare the life out of a shaky Barca back line.

Edin Dzeko has been reborn in the Italian capital, and alongside Mohamed Salah and Iago Falque, Roma have pace, width and quality right across the front line.

Miralem Pjanic is a dangerous creator alongside the more industrious Keita with Daniele de Rossi shoring things up at the back.

Rudi Garcia can feel relatively confident of progression if his side can improve upon some disastrous group stage performances from previous seasons.

Bate Borisov

Expected to be the whipping boys of the group, Bate have never got past the group stages of the tournament and are unlikely to do so here.

Aleksandr Hleb returns to Camp Nou and Barca, a club where he didn't exactly cover himself in glory.

Quite why his form dipped so dramatically, especially given the calibre of team mate whilst at Barca is unknown.

He has at least found his footballing feet again at Bate and will likely present the main threat for a team that has lost just once so far this season, conceding only two goals.

Aleksandr Yermakovich's side are a youthful bunch with Hleb being the oldest by some distance.

They will at least come into each group game with the fearlessness of youth and hope they don't leave chastened by the experience.

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Topics:
Football
UEFA Champions League
Barcelona

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