Barca start on long road to Wembley

September 18th, 2012 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Sep 18 (IANS) The long road to Wembley starts Wednesday night as FC Barcelona kick-off their Champions League campaign at home against Spartak Moscow.

Wembley has a special place among Barcelona fans given that the club has won two of its Champions League titles at that ground in London, with the last being in 2011 against Manchester United, reports Xinhua.

With this year’s final again returning to the ground, there is an added incentive for Barca to make it through to the final.

Barca coach Tito Vilanova will be looking for a positive start against Spartak, who are coached by former Valencia boss Unai Emery and his team go into Wednesday’s match full of confidence after four wins in four matches in the BBVA Primera Liga.

The wins have left them at the top of the Spanish league and eight points clear of Real Madrid, who have struggled in early matches. Madrid also have a much more difficult qualifying group than Barca and if Vilanova’s side can seal their qualification quickly that will translate into a further advantage in Spain as well as in Europe.

Vilanova does have injury problems, however. Carles Puyol is out for around six weeks after straining a knee ligament in Getafe Saturday night. His absence is added to that of Eric Abidal, who is still on the road back to fitness after a liver transplant, while Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez are suffering slight muscle injuries.

Their absence could open the door for David Villa to make his first start since breaking a leg in December. Villa has been working his way to full fitness and scored the fourth goal Saturday after coming on as a second half substitute. The Spain international is looking better all the time and could well get the nod Wednesday to play at least the first 45 minutes.

Lionel Messi is also going to start after being rested in Getafe, where he too appeared as a second half substitute, while Pedro Rodriguez looks likely to continue hiss excellent start to the campaign on the right.

Dani Alves could also return at right-back after suffering slight muscle problems in recent weeks, although Martin Montoya has performed solidly when given the chance.

Meanwhile Javier Mascherano plays in central defence and Jordi Alba, who had flu at the weekend, will give penetration from left-back.

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