Barcelona: Barcelona welcome Borussia Dortmund to Camp Nou Wednesday night knowing that victory will secure them top spot in Group F with a game to spare.
However, defeat to Dortmund would not only put the Bundesliga outfit in first place, it may potentially leave Barcelona needing to avoid defeat against Inter Milan at San Siro in order to qualify for the Champions League last 16 stage.
While criticism continues to grow against manager Ernesto Valverde,the Catalan giants are still well placed to achieve their goals for the first half of the campaign.
Barcelona, despite having a game in hand along with Real Madrid, sit top of the La Liga standings on goal difference courtesy of their comeback win over Leganes at the weekend.
However, the level of that performance was in match with several other below-par displays this season, which have led to calls for Valverde to be removed from his position in the dugout.
The Barcelona board is unlikely to make any drastic call regarding the Spaniard for the foreseeable future, however, and Valverde will feel that a positive result against Dortmund should ease the pressure going forward.
Despite being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague in their last European outing, Barcelona will open up an unassailable four-point advantage at the top of the group if they overcome their German opponents.
Given the stature and current form of the clubs involved, Valverde would deserve a similar amount of praise to the level of negative feedback that he has received for his team’s outings since the middle of August.
With a potentially pivotal El Clasico showdown taking place December 18, Valverde will also want as much momentum as possible heading into that fixture as he bids to prove that he is the man to lead Barcelona to a third successive La Liga crown.
In case of Dortmund, manager Lucien Favre was allegedly told, after Friday’s 3-3 draw with Paderborn, that he must deliver a run of improved results in order to keep his job at the Westfalenstadion.
With Dortmund now down in sixth place in the Bundesliga standings, it is an ultimatum which is arguably deserved, especially when considering the quality in the first-team squad.
Nevertheless, Dortmund have enjoyed a solid Champions League campaign thus far, which has put them in a strong position regarding qualification for the next round.
Providing that they defeat Slavia Prague in front of their own supporters on match day six, it would leave Inter Milan still needing to beat Barcelona at San Siro, regardless of the outcome of Dortmund’s trip to Camp Nou.
With that in mind, Favre may feel that the shackles can be lifted to a certain extent as he looks for a solution to his team’s inconsistent run of results.
Barcelona will be without Gerard Pique who is serving a one-match ban while Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba will miss out through injuries and Clement Lenglet is a major doubt due to a calf problem
This will be the second meeting in the competition history of the two, with the first match finishing goalless