Barcelona begins a new life for the next two months, or eight games. Lionel Messi sustained a left knee injury that will sideline him for that long, and the Blaugrana need to start over with their best player out of the picture for quite a while. A massive clowd of questions hangs over this team, and they need a statement victory without Messi to prove how good they are.
The problem: the first Messi-less match is a crucial Champions League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday. The Germans have had a shaky start to the season, but have played well as of late and are one of the most dangerous sides on the European Cup's group stage. They're a fierce counter-attacking team, but know how to press high and create chances with a deep, talented offensive group.
Despite losing Messi, Barça can count on the return of two key players for this huge game. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and Jordi Alba missed the last few weeks/games with injuries, and they will be fundamental. Bravo is likely to be on the bench, but having him healthy is already good news. Alba will probably start, and his defensive awareness, pace and offensive contributions can prove to be gigantic against a very good opponent. And without Messi, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the rest of 'MSN', Neymar Jr. and Luis Suárez, to provide some of the Argentine's magic.
They need to step up, as does the whole team, and we'll now know what this team is made of. You shall not miss what should be a fantastic game.
Date/Time: Tuesday, September 29th, 2015, 8:45pm local time (CET), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT (US), 7:45pm (UK), 12:15am IST (India, next day)
Venue: Camp Nou Stadium, Barcelona, Catalonia
Referee: Martin Atkinson
How to Watch
TV: Fox Sports 1 (US), ESPN Deportes (US - Spanish), TSN (Canada), BT Sport Extra (UK), Ten Sports (India), TV3, Antena 3 (Spain), more
Online: FoxSoccer 2GO, Fox Sports GO, WatchESPN (US), BT Sport Live (UK), more