Monday 24 October 2016

Rakitic hopes Neymar goal rush continues

Barcelona's Neymar celebrates a goal against Rayo Vallecano during their Spanish first division soccer match
Barcelona's Neymar celebrates a goal against Rayo Vallecano during their Spanish first division soccer match

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic is hoping Neymar can pick up where he left off against Rayo Vallecano when his side take on BATE Borisov in Minsk tonight.

Neymar warmed up for the game against the newly-crowned champions of Belarus by scoring four goals on Saturday in a 5-2 win over Rayo.

Barca need Neymar at his best with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta out of action with injuries.

"I hope that Neymar never stops," Rakitic said. "Hopefully we'll keep getting him the ball, you've got to congratulate him.

"It always feels good to win, it's important to score five against a good Rayo."

The Catalans will be in good spirits as they go after their second win in Champions League Group E.

The win over Rayo saw them bounce back from a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla and left them level on 18 points with Celta Vigo and leaders Real Madrid in La Liga. "We deserved it," Rakitic said. "We're doing things well."

Barca started their Champions League title defence with a 1-1 draw at Roma before beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at home.

They are at the top of Group E, one point clear of tonight's opponents.

BATE - conqurors of League of Ireland champions Dundalk in the qualifying rounds - bounced back from a 4-1 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen with a 3-2 triumph at home to Roma in the previous round. They have won their last four home games in the competition.

"To beat Barca we will need to play at our best," BATE coach Aleksandr Yermakovich said. "We hope to learn from this game."

They go into the contest having ensured a 10th successive title in Belarus after Friday's 2-0 win at Vitebsk moved them 10 points clear of Dinamo Minsk at the top of the standings with only three games remaining.

"Our title victory will not affect this game," Yermakovich said. "I don't think my team will fear Barca, we all have experience in the Champions League."

The hosts will not be at full strength, with Yermakovich confirming that defender Kaspars Dubra, former Barca midfielder Aleksandr Hleb as well as forward Vitali Rodionov all sidelined through injury.

The visitors will be bolstered by the return of Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian defender sustained a calf injury in last month's league game against Atletico Madrid but is fit and could feature on Tuesday.

The last time the sides met at the Borisov Arena was in the 2011-12 group stage campaign, with Barca winning 5-0.

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