Barcelona vs. Ajax: Lionel Messi and Other Stars Will Set Tone for Barcelona
In their last Champions League match, Barcelona were dominated by Bayern Munich in the semifinals. Facing off against Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday will be their first chance at redemption, so look for Lionel Messi and a few other stars to come out ready to prove to the world that they are contenders.
This will be the opening match for both teams, and neither one can afford to fall behind the rest of the group.
Group H consists of Barcelona, Ajax, AC Milan and Celtic FC. Barcelona and Milan are expected to come out of the group, but Ajax and Celtic are not going to roll over. Ajax are the defending Dutch champions, so it's not going to be a cakewalk.
The opening match is a chance for each club to gain momentum early in the UCL. However, it will be all Barcelona in this match.
Barca's loss against Bayern Munich made history, as it was the first time in 22 fixtures that Barcelona lost at Camp Nou in UCL play.
Their success comes from having a star-studded roster. Messi will grab all of the headlines, but he has a lot of help too. Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas are a few of the players who will help Messi lead the squad to a deep run.
Neymar has turned into a terrific player. The 21-year-old is terrific with the ball, whether it's in the middle of the field or near the goal. Neymar has the ability to score and set up his teammates, so Barca has several premier playmakers.
Sanchez usually finds himself in the perfect position for a shot. His ability to move the ball makes him a key member of the team, and he is a dangerous target out wide. He presses his opponents on offense and defense.
Xavi has a goal in three games in La Liga play this year, but his impact is felt in a different way. He sets the tempo with his play. He makes smart passes and focuses on possession. Xavi doesn't allow opponents to disrupt his plan. Fabregas also uses his passes to make an impact. The midfielder helps his teammates with his tremendous vision.
Messi led the way with eight goals in nine games last season. He was good enough to lead his team into the semifinals, but the superstar needs help in order for Barcelona to be serious contenders. Jordi Alba, who scored twice, was the only other player with more than one goal.
This will be the perfect opportunity for the rest of the squad to step up. This won't be Barca's toughest opponent, so it's a fixture that will let the players get a game under their belt. Messi will be good enough to top Ajax, but there will be plenty of scoring chances for other players to contribute. They will be able to attack Ajax's midfield, which is a weakness, and defense.
Between Messi and Neymar, there is plenty of goal-scoring ability on this squad.
Barca need a strong start from multiple players in order to send a message to the rest of the league. They are looking to show the rest of the world that they have grown from last year's loss and have grown from it. A fast start shows that they are focused from the beginning.
Barcelona continue to be viewed as one of the top teams in the world. They have won the UCL four times, which is tied with Ajax for the fifth-most of all time, and have won three titles since 2006. Meanwhile, Ajax haven't won since 1995. Ajax won three consecutive titles from 1971 to 1973, but they have only one title otherwise.
Playing at Camp Nou certainly gives Barcelona the advantage in this match. They need a victory in order to set the tone for their UCL journey. Messi is going to continue to lead the team in goals, but the team won't be able to win it all without other players stepping up.
Barcelona's opener against Ajax will give Sanchez, Neymar and other stars a chance to start quickly.
*All information is courtesy of UEFA's official website
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