European champions Barcelona suffered an injury blow on Tuesday as Brazil star Neymar limped out of training ahead of his side’s Champions League clash at Bayer Leverkusen.
“During training this evening, Neymar suffered a small muscle injury in the abductor of his left leg,” Barcelona said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s match.
“The development of the injury will determine his availability for the upcoming games.”
The 23-year-old is expected to sit out against Leverkusen, but of more concern for Barca is whether he will be ready for the Club World Cup with the Catalans set to play their semi-final in Japan on December 17.
Neymar has been in sensational form this season, scoring 16 goals in 18 appearances.
Earlier on Tuesday he was rewarded for a series of excellent displays by being crowned La Liga’s player of the month for November.
Regardless of who plays at the BayArena, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is demanding a sharp performance in Leverkusen despite the title holders already being through.
Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique have been left in Barcelona, but star-studded forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are tipped to start.
Barcelona will win Group E regardless of the result, but Enrique offered no clues as to the strength of his starting team.
“In terms of personnel, I am saying nothing,” said the Barca boss in the press conference before Neymar’s injury.
The goal-scoring prowess of Neymar, Messi and Suarez, who Leverkusen’s director of sports Rudi Voeller described as “aliens”, is certainly out of this world.
Between them, they have already scored 44 goals this season, 19 of which have come from Suarez.
Messi missed Barcelona’s 2-1 win over the Germans in September with injury and is set to get more match practice in Leverkusen having only returned a fortnight ago.
“Our motivation is to get three points, but we don’t have to get a result. This can be good or bad for us,” said Enrique.
“We have talked about Leverkusen’s pressing, that can pose problems for us.
“It is important to demonstrate a certain sharpness and to offer enough open players to the one in possession.”
Leverkusen want to avoid a repeat of their 2012 drubbing, when Messi scored a record five goals in a 7-1 win in Barcelona in a 10-2 aggregate result in the last 16 tie.
Leverkusen must beat Barcelona and hope Roma drop points at home to BATE to progress to the knock-out stages.
“Barcelona are in great shape. With Messi fit again, they are even stronger,” said Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt.
“He is the best player in the world and there is no way to completely nullify him.
“Together with Bayern Munich, they are probably the best side in the world.
“We are looking forward to the game and want to compete with them in our own stadium.
“We have already shown we are capable of putting in special performances in Europe.”