FC Barcelona Line-Up: (GK) Ter Stegen, Alba, Bartra, Piqué, Alves; Iniesta(C), Mascherano, Rakitić; Neymar, Messi, and Pedro.
AFC Ajax Line-Up: (GK) Cillessen; Viergever, Moisander(C), Veltman, Van Rhijn; L. Anderson, Zimling, Klaassen; Kishna, Sigthórsson, Schöne.
FC Barcelona won their clash against AFC Ajax at Camp Nou Tuesday, winning 3-1, in Group F of the Champions League. The win puts renewed pressure back on Paris Saint-Germain, who leads the group with 7 points, ahead of Barça with 6. Following their loss, Ajax now sit in third with 2 points, and APOEL in last with 1 after losing to Paris SG, also on Tuesday. Full standings are posted on UEFA.com.
Barça’s Manager, Luis Enrique, was happy with the victory ahead of El Clasico Saturday. From an interview posted on FCBarcelona.com Enrique added, “We were very much the better team in the first half… We ended up winning deservedly.”
Neymar and Messi showed once again how easily they are able to rip through defenses when they work together, both scoring goals within minutes of each other. They finished the first half comfortably with a 2-0 lead. The rest of the Barça line-up also played strong, especially the midfield with Captain Andres Iniesta who had an exceptional game running up and down the field assisting and providing key plays. Rakitić also gave a dominant performance, continuing to assimilate well into the team.
The developing Ajax squad has struggled after losing several key players during the summer transfers. The Dutch Champions fought to defend the onslaught of Barcelona attempts on goal throughout the first half, which inevitably broke them down. Even after Manager Frank de Boer substituted several players, they continued to have trouble maintaining possession of the ball. Ajax Goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, delivered several important saves despite conceding the goals that lost them the match.
Enrique was confident he could rest his top players ahead of Madrid, as Messi, Neymar, and Iniesta, were replaced by the youngsters, Munir, Sandro, and Rafinha. While their leaders watched from the sidelines, the squad remained dangerous. An attempt by Rakitić saw a powerful shot on goal but unfortunately, straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.
Unlike other teams who have fallen apart or simply stopped playing Barça before the whistle blows, Ajax fought back. Following some clumsy defense by Barça in the final minutes of the game, Ajax El Ghazi deflected a goal in from a free kick that was initially blocked by Bartra but El Ghazi left open by Piqué. Unfortunate for Ajax, this was short lived when in stoppage time, Sandro Ramírez scored his first Champions League goal in the 90 + 4th minute.
As reported on Financial Express, Ajax Manager De Boer concluded, “I think we gave them too much respect. I know we don’t have much experience in the team but playing against a team of this level you can’t give them that much respect.”
While there continues to be mistakes made in the defensive line, Barça recovered well and continues to play strong. “But I am happy with what I saw on the field,” Enrique added, “We are going to the Bernabeu at a perfect time. We are leaders in the league and are desperate to measure ourselves against our eternal rivals.”
El Clasico is set for this Saturday, Barça playing away at Santiago Bernabeu. Real Madrid is on fire with Ronaldo leading the league in goals with 15 in only 8 games. Barça meanwhile, will have a new weapon available in Luis Súarez, completing his 4-month ban this week.