Barça look beyond Messi's magic for Sporting showdown

Valdes urges team-mates to provide cutting edge with talisman expected to be out

Barcelona have the chance to secure top spot in Champions League Group C and prove they are not solely reliant upon their striker Lionel Messi for inspiration when they visit Sporting Lisbon tonight. Barça's nine-match winning streak in La Liga came to an end with a 1-1 draw at home to Getafe on Sunday, as Pep Guardiola's outfit struggled to open up their well-organised opponents. Messi, who has four goals to his name in the group stage this season, was left in the stands as a precautionary measure after picking up a thigh strain last week, and although he was included for the trip to Portugal, remains a doubt.

"Lionel is a very important part of the team and there is no doubt he is missed when he doesn't play," goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. "But we can't always be waiting for, or dependent, on one individual. Every player has qualities to offer to the group as a whole." Teenage striker Bojan Krkic played wide on the right against Getafe but struggled to make much of an impression and was seen to be in tears on the bench after he was substituted in the second half. He could start in Lisbon along with Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry up front. Midfielder Andres Iniesta and full-back Eric Abidal are out injured. Captain Carles Puyol and midfielder Yaya Touré have been omitted from the squad suffering with minor complaints.

Barça beat Sporting 3-1 at the Nou Camp in September and are unbeaten over their four games, though they slipped up with a 1-1 draw at home to Basle last time out. Both Barça and Sporting have already qualified for the knock-out stage with the Catalans holding a one-point advantage over Sporting, who have progressed to the last 16 for the first time.

Sporting coach Paulo Bento is set to rest a number of players after an energy-sapping 1-0 league win over Naval on Saturday, a match in which the Lisbon team played with only nine men for the last 23 minutes.

"The aim in the [Champions] League is reached," Bento said. "We'll fight for the first place in the group, but with other factors to be taken into account, most of all the attrition [in the Naval match] to which the team was subjected, that may weigh on my options for managing the squad."

Sporting will be without right-back Abel, central defender Tonel and Brazilian midfielder Fabio Rochemback due to injuries, while defenders Marco Caneira, Pedro Silva and Grimi are doubtful.

Elsewhere in Group C Shakhtar Donetsk take on Basle in the battle for Uefa Cup qualification.

In Group B, Cyprus side Anorthosis Famagusta are hoping to keep their historic Champions League run going against Werder Bremen tonight.

Anorthosis became the first Cypriot team to make it to the group stage of the competition and the five points collected so far are good for second behind only Inter Milan after four games. Victory over the German side, coupled with a Panathinaikos loss to Inter, would secure the team's passage into the competition's knock-out round.

"We are fully aware of the historic proportions of this match," team spokesman Alexandros Alexandrou said. "This is a watershed match for Anorthosis and for Cypriot football in general. But pressure is part of the game and players have to live with it and overcome it."

Playing at home bodes well for Anorthosis which beat Panathinaikos and drew with Inter at Nicosia's GSP stadium. But Alexandrou insists his players must remain level-headed against Werder. The German team is fourth in the group with three points."It's a great team we're playing and we're not taking things for granted," said Alexandrou. "We never underestimate our opponent. Our strength lies in knowing who we are."

Despite their lowly position in the group, Werder captain Torsten Frings said the team is still capable of qualifying."We want to advance and we believe we can do it," Frings said.

Their task will be made harder by the absence of striker Boubacar Sanogo, who is out with a cold. A 2-1 come-from-behind win against rivals Apollon Limassol over the weekend kept Anorthosis at the top of the Cyprus first-division standings and buoyed spirits ahead of tonight's match.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent