Football

Barca lean on Neymar

Injury-hit Catalan giants profiting from 'unstoppable' striker

GROUP E

BATE BORISOV v BARCELONA

(Tomorrow, 2.30am, StarHub TV Ch 202)

Barcelona can take a big step towards the last 16 of the Champions League for a 12th consecutive season when they travel to face BATE Borisov in the cold of Belarus tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The depleted Catalans will again be without Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, but can count on an on-fire Neymar after he smashed four past Rayo Vallecano in a 5-2 win last Saturday.

Barca boss Luis Enrique described the Brazilian star (above) as "unstoppable" as he has taken on the responsibility of leading the European champions in Messi's absence.

The player himself proudly declared his performance against Rayo as one of his best for the club as he left the Nou Camp with the match ball signed by all of his teammates.

"Hopefully Neymar doesn't stop and we have to sign a lot more balls for him," said midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Messi scored twice when the sides last met in Belarus four years ago as Barca cruised to a 5-0 win.

However, the impact of injuries to the Argentinian, Iniesta and Rafinha, allied to a one-year ban on registering new players have left Barca with a very stretched squad for a run of six games in 19 days.

A come-from-behind win against Bayer Leverkusen in their last European outing did at least put Barca back on course for the last 16, after opening their campaign with a 1-1 draw away to AS Roma.

MESSI BACK SOON

Enrique's men will be expected to pick up six points from their two Group E clashes with BATE in the next fortnight with the safety net of knowing Messi will be fit for their final two group games at home to Roma and away to Leverkusen.

"We need to recover well. We have a lot of games in a row and that means we are doing well because you are in all competitions," said Rakitic.

"We will prepare well for Tuesday and, if something hurts a little, we just have to grit our teeth and keep going. That is all we can do."

BATE go into the game against the Spanish giants full of confidence after sealing a 10th consecutive league title on Friday with 2-0 win over Vitebsk.

The Belarusians are also well in the fight to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in their fifth year in the competition.

A 3-2 win over Roma last time out means Alyaksandr Yermakovich's side are level with Leverkusen in second place in Group E, just a point behind Barca.

BATE also have Champions League winning experience in their ranks in the form of Alexander Hleb, who was part of the Barca squad who won the competition in 2008/09. - AFP.

BY THE NUMBERS

12 - Twelve of BATE Borisov's 26 wins in all competitions this year have been 1-0.

16 - Goalkeeper Sergei Chernik has kept a Vysshaya Liga best 16 clean sheets in 23 appearances this season.

17 - Marc-Andre ter Stegen has conceded 17 goals in eight appearances this season.


Neymar’s father seeks assurances before contract extension

The father and representative of Barcelona star Neymar has said he will seek judicial and tax assurances before agreeing to a new contract for his son with the European champions.

The club, Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell have all been charged with tax fraud in Spain for the transfer deal that brought Neymar to the club from Santos in 2013.

Moreover, a Brazilian court last month froze US$47 million ($65m) in assets belonging to the player over tax evasion allegations.

"We have three years left on the contract. We are suffering an insecure tax situation that affects the planning of his career," Neymar Sr told Barcelona sports daily Sport.

"We need these issues to stop. How can we extend something if we don't have stability?"

Neymar isn't the only Barca player to be plagued by tax problems as Lionel Messi is to face trial over tax fraud over his image rights, while Javier Mascherano goes before a judge later this month in a case related to the tax payments on his image rights.

"Various players are suffering tax penalties. Why would I anticipate a renewal if I don't have judicial security that will back us to be able to work? I intend to wait and be calm to manage Neymar in the best way possible." - AFP.

 

Champions LeagueBATE BorisovbarcelonaneymarGROUP EFraud