Champions League Preview: Ajax - Barcelona

Barcelona is in fine form, but it will have to make do without injured duo Lionel Messi and Victor Valdes, as well as the suspended Alexis Sanchez.
Barcelona's 20-match unbeaten record this season will be tested at Ajax in Group H of the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Blaugrana has not lost a competitive match since manager Gerardo Martino took over, and with three wins and one draw in their four group matches, the Spanish champions only need to draw in Amsterdam to secure first place and a berth in the last 16.

Barca strolled to a 4-0 win over Liga rivals Granada on Saturday, with first-half penalties from Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas setting it on its way. Alexis Sanchez and Pedro wrapped up the points with strikes after the break as Barca remained top of the table.

It will be a slightly weakened side that makes the trip to the Dutch capital, though, with Lionel Messi (thigh) and goalkeeper Victor Valdes (calf) ruled out for the rest of the group stage.

Dani Alves sustained a calf injury on international duty and missed the win over Granada, left back Jordi Alba (hamstring) has not played since September and midfielder Jonathan dos Santos (knee) could be out until April.

In addition, Isaac Cuenca has not played this season following knee surgery, Ibrahim Afellay is yet to return from a thigh operation and, just to compound Barca's woes, Alexis is suspended.

The Chilean, who has scored 11 goals in his last 12 matches for club and country, picked up three bookings in the group stages.

This fixture will be Barcelona's 250th in the history of the Champions League, while a draw would be their 100th in UEFA competition.

Barcelona, which has a pass completion rate of 87 percent - the best in the competition, won the reverse fixture 4-0 at Camp Nou in September, with Messi scoring a hat-trick.

That defeat was Ajax's joint-heaviest in the Champions League but its spirits were boosted by a 1-0 home win over Celtic earlier this month that keeps its hopes of reaching the round of 16 alive.

Ajax has four points from as many matches and could go second if results go its way, but it could also be eliminated if it loses and Milan wins at Celtic.

The Eredivisie champions, who have lost their last nine matches against Spanish opposition, climbed to second thanks to a 3-0 home win over Heracles on Saturday.

Niklas Moisander returned from a knee injury in that match, but Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (ankle) and Siem de Jong (hamstring) missed out after picking up injuries on international duty.

Striker Bojan Krkic, who is on loan at Ajax from Barcelona, has not played since tearing his hamstring in September.

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