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Champions League preview: Barcelona aiming for fifth Champions League title in 10 years


GOALCOMMENT By Ignasi Oliva
No team has been able to claim back-to-back titles since the old European Cup became the Champions League in 1992-93. Pep Guardiola's Barcelona came close in 2010 and also in 2012, but were denied by Jose Mourinho's Inter and then a Chelsea side coached by Roberto Di Matteo. So the gauntlet has been laid down for Luis Enrique in 2015-16 as the current champions look to make history with yet another first.

The Champions League is the biggest goal for the Catalan club this term and although summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal cannot feature in the group stages due to Barca's transfer ban, the pair will be able to turn out in the second phase which starts in February.

In order to reach the knockout round, Barca will have to negotiate a group that features Roma (their opponents in Wednesday's opener), BATE Borisov and Bayer Leverkusen - one of the surprise teams from last year's competition. And without both Arda and Vidal for now, Luis Enrique has also seen his squad weakened by the departures of Xavi and Pedro in the summer.



The Asturian coach will hope his team can avoid injuries, especially in attack where there is no natural replacement for Pedro. Even if a player had arrived, however, he would be unable to feature until January in any case. That situation, plus Barca's traditional self-destructive streak, look like the major obstacles for the defending champions in this competition - especially as there is no clear favourite from any of Europe's other top leagues.

None of Barca's rivals possess a player like Lionel Messi, either. Leader in terms of goals (along with Cristiano Ronaldo) and assists in last season's Champions League, the Argentine will once again be the protagonist in a duel with Real Madrid's Portuguese forward, with the two players fighting it out to be the top scorer in the continental competition after both overtaking previous record-holder Raul last season.

But alongside Messi are two more prolific players: Neymar and Luis Suarez. The three formed a lethal trident last season and were the inspiration behind Barca's treble triumph along with defenders Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen also impressed in his debut season as the Catalans tightened up at the back in a true team effort to claim the title in Berlin.

El Barcelona ya ha demostrado que sus argumentos son muy válidos para lograr el título

Los centrales del Barcelona, siempre a una

Luis Enrique's men are the defending champions and will fear no-one, but perhaps eternal rivals Real Madrid are the team that will worry them the most - and particularly the fans at Camp Nou. A possible meeting with Los Blancos would represent much more than a knockout tie, due to the ridicule and derision aimed at the losing team in Clasico clashes - especially in Europe.

But there is no need for Barca to think about any of that. The Catalans will be expected to advance comfortably from their group and in any case, they have been more successful than any other team in the past decade, winning the Champions League four times (in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015).

A fifth title in a decade would make them the most dominant team in the modern game, while a successive title would represent another first for the Blaugrana - so there is plenty of motivation as they prepare to kick off their latest Champions League campaign in Rome on Wednesday.