Barcelona welcome Borussia Dortmund to Camp Nou on Wednesday night knowing that victory will secure top spot in Group F with a game to spare.
However, defeat to Dortmund would not only put the Bundesliga outfit in first place, it may potentially leave Barcelona needing to avoid defeat against Inter Milan at San Siro in order to qualify for the Champions League last 16.
While criticism continues to go the way of manager Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona are still well placed to achieve their goals for the first half of the campaign.
Despite having a game in hand along with Real Madrid, the Catalan giants sit top of the La Liga standings on goal difference courtesy of their comeback win over Leganes at the weekend.
However, the level of that performance was in matching with several other below-par displays this season, which have led to calls for Valverde to be removed from his position in the dugout.
The Barcelona board are unlikely to make any drastic call regarding the Spaniard for the foreseeable future, however, and Valverde will feel that a positive result against Dortmund should ease the pressure going forward.
Despite being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague in their last European outing, Barcelona will open up an unassailable four-point advantage at the top of the group if they overcome Wednesday’s opponents.
Given the stature and current form of the clubs involved, Valverde would deserve a similar amount of praise to the level of negative feedback that he has received for his team’s outings since the middle of August.
With a potentially pivotal El Clasico showdown taking place on December 18, Valverde will also want as much momentum as possible heading into that fixture as he bids to prove that he is the man to lead Barcelona to a third successive La Liga crown.
However, defeat on Wednesday would throw up the possibility of an early exit from European football’s premier competition, and demotion to the Europa League would likely lead to his dismissal before Christmas.
Recent form: DWWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWLDWW
After Friday’s 3-3 draw with Paderborn, Lucien Favre was allegedly been told that he must deliver a run of improved results in order to keep his job at the Westfalenstadion.
With Dortmund now down in sixth place in the Bundesliga standings, it is an ultimatum which is arguably deserved, especially when considering the quality in the first-team squad.
Nevertheless, Dortmund have enjoyed a solid Champions League campaign thus far, which has put them in a strong position regarding qualification for the next round.
Providing that they defeat Slavia Prague in front of their own supporters on Matchday Six, it would leave Inter Milan still needing to beat Barcelona at San Siro, regardless of the outcome of Dortmund’s trip to Camp Nou.
With that in mind, Favre may feel that the shackles can be lifted to a certain extent as he looks for a solution to his team’s inconsistent run of results.
Defence is the biggest worry for the 62-year-old, with Dortmund conceding nine goals during their contests with Inter, Bayern Munich and Paderborn.
While a talented attack continue to score goals for fun, Der BVB will make no progress in the coming weeks unless they can tighten up at the back.
Facing Barcelona at Camp Nou is arguably the toughest test for any back four, but it may be the setting which Dortmund’s under-performing defence require to rediscover their resolve.
Recent form: DWLW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLD
Gerard Pique is one of a number of Barcelona defenders who are sidelined for this game, with the centre-back set to serve a one-match ban.
Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba will miss out through injury, while Clement Lenglet is a major doubt due to a calf problem.
Arthur may come back into contention after being left out at the weekend, although Arturo Vidal is seemingly ahead of the Brazilian in the pecking order.
Favre is expected to make several alterations to his Dortmund side, with Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard both in line for a recall.
However, despite reports regarding his future, Jadon Sancho is likely to remain in the starting lineup, while Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi may be used at left-back.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Umtiti, Lenglet, Firpo; Vidal, Busquets, De Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
Borussia Dortmund possible starting lineup:
Burki; Piszczek, Weigl, Hummels, Hakimi; Witsel, Dahoud; Sancho, Reus, Brandt; Alcacer
Head To Head
Despite the size of both clubs, they had never previously met in the Champions League before the start of this season.
Their solitary meetings came in a two-legged UEFA Super Cup final in 1997, with Barca claiming a 2-0 win at Camp Nou before securing a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
Live commentary of the Barcelona vs Dortmund game will be on Joy 99.7 FM with build-up starting at 7pm.
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