Barcelona finish their Champions League group stage campaign on Tuesday night against Borussia Mönchengladbach knowing that they are already assured of a place in the last 16. Tuesday’s game will have no consequence on the final group table as Barça have already won the group thanks to their win over Celtic in the last round of matches.

Borussia Mönchengladbach will also come into the game knowing that regardless of what happens they will finish third in the group, which will see them enter the Europa League in the new year. The German side have five points from their five games which sees them three points behind Manchester City and three ahead of Celtic. City hold the head to head over Die Fohlen and the Germans hold the head to head over Celtic which may lead to André Schubert rotate his starting eleven.

Things haven’t gone well for Borussia Mönchengladbach since they last met Barcelona in September. They haven’t won in the eight Bundesliga games since that match and their only victories came in a 2-0 Champions League win over Celtic and a DFB Pokal win over Stuttgart. In their eight league games without victory they could only manage to draw three of them. Away from home they have been particularly bad with just one point in six away league games including heavy defeats to Schalke (4-0), Hertha Berlin (3-0) and Borussia Dortmund (4-1). As things stand they are 13th in the Bundesliga and just five points clear of Darmstadt who currently occupy the relegation playoff spot.

With Schubert’s team already guaranteed third place he may want to rotate his squad but the big question will be what options he has left due to a lengthy list of players due to miss the trip to Camp Nou. Lars Stindl was sent off last time out against Manchester City so will be suspended while Patrick Herrmann, Josip Drmic, Marvin Schulz, Ibrahima Traoré, Álvaro Dominguez, Lászlo Bénes, Mamadou Doucoure and Moritz Nicolas have also been ruled out due to injury. With three games to go until the Bundesliga takes a month off for winter Schubert may see this game as one he can’t afford to risk losing more key players as he tries to push the team up the table.

With Barcelona already guaranteed their place in the next round it looks like Luis Enrique will take the opportunity to give some minutes to his fringe players which is a little worrying considering they were unable to beat Segunda B side,Hércules in the Copa del Rey last week. In his press conference Luis Enrique confirmed that Lionel Messi will start although he also suggested that other players would be handed an opportunity, possibly even in a different system, so it really is a mystery as to how the team will line up. What we do know is Neymar, Ivan Rakitic and Jeremy Mathieu won’t be involved. Rakitic and Neymar are both suspended and Mathieu is still injured. Neymar is also carrying an injury from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Real Madrid but as he is suspended for this game and also for the game against Osasuna at the weekend he wouldn’t be eligible to play until the derby against Espanyol on 18th December anyway so hopefully the rest will allow his body to heal.

While this game isn’t the most important one Barcelona will play this season it should be seen as an opportunity to build confidence for bigger battles ahead. Things haven’t been great this season and wins have been hard to come by recently so the management and players should do as much as they can to lift morale with a victory. The talent is in the dressing room to do special things this season but if it is to end up being a success then things need to change and there really is no time like the present.

Referee

Tuesday’s match will be refereed by Sergei Karasev of Russia. Karasev has refereed two Barcelona matches and Barça won both against Arsenal and Celtic. In those games he booked two Barcelona players. Karasev has only taken charge of Borussia Möenchengladbach on one previous occasion. That game was against Lazio and finished 3-3. In that game he gave one booking to the German side and awarded them a remarkable three penalties.

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