Barcelona have gotten a pretty comfortable group after the Champions League draw on Thursday. Facing strong, yet not too powerful teams in Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma, and an easy opponent in BATE Borisov, the Blaugrana are heavy favorites to win the group.
The bad news came later, when the UEFA computers gave us the schedule for the group stag, and man it's a tough one. Here are the dates:
Matchday 1 - Wednesday 16th September - at AS Roma
Matchday 2 - Tuesday 29th September - vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Matchday 3 - Tuesday 20th October - at BATE Borisov
Matchday 4 - Wednesday 4th November - vs BATE Borisov
Matchday 5 - Tuesday 24th November - vs AS Roma
Matchday 6 - Wednesday 9th December - at Bayer 04 Leverkusen
The four toughest games against the German and Italian sides coincidentally come close to very difficult domestic fixtures: for instance, the debut against Roma is three days after a game at Vicente Calderón against Atlético Madrid. The first match against Leverkusen is before a La Liga clash with Sevilla.
Interestingly enough, the two encounters with BATE come in the easiest part of the schedule, when Barça faces teams like Rayo, Eibar and Getafe in October. Since the Catalan giants have two straight games against the Belarus side, it could mean we guarantee a Round of 16 spot after those matches against the weakest team in the group.
If they do, then the month of November looks less scary. The second Roma match is right after the first El Clásico against Real Madrid at Bernabéu, and the final game in Germany comes after a date with Valencia at Mestalla. Hopefully the squad gets healthy and the rotations work again just like last season, and the team gets through the end of 2015 without too much trouble. In January we'll get Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal (and maybe a replacement for Pedro), and the squad will get stronger for the toughest part of the campaign.