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Barcelona hosts APOEL in Champions League

Barcelona hosts APOEL in Champions League


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MADRID (AP) — Luis Enrique will make his Champions League debut as Barcelona coach when the team hosts Cypriot club APOEL on Wednesday at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona has made a perfect start to the domestic season, leading the Spanish league as the only team with nine points after three games.

Enrique played with Barcelona the last time it faced Cypriot opposition in 1996.

In the other Group F match, Ajax will host Paris Saint-Germain.

Here are some things to know about Wednesday's games:

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ACHILLES HEEL

Barcelona's attack looked good on Saturday when Neymar came on as a substitute to score twice from passes by Lionel Messi to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0.

The club's defense, often its Achilles' heel in the past, is bolstered by Javier Mascherano, who looks set to partner Gerard Pique at center back.

Although Jeremy Mathieu is a doubt with an ankle injury and Brazil right back Dani Alves is also not fully fit, Barcelona will gain confidence from the fact that it has lost only one of its last 27 Champions League matches at home.

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SHAKY AJAX

Ajax snapped a two-match losing streak with a win on Saturday as it prepared to host Paris Saint-Germain, but the hard-fought 2-1 victory over last-place Heracles Almelo was hardly a confidence booster.

"We have to work hard for three days to get ready for PSG," said striker Arek Milik, who scored both Ajax's goals in the first half.

The Group F match will mark a return to the Dutch capital for two of the Amsterdam club's former stars, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Gregory van der Viel.

"Ibrahimovic is a superstar. I think he's the best striker in the world," Milik said. "But we are playing at home and we have a good chance of winning."

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APOEL'S RECORD

APOEL has lost five and drawn one of its six matches played in Spain, and reached the quarterfinals on their last appearance in the 2011-12 season before being eliminated by Real Madrid 8-2 on aggregate.

The team is second in its domestic league after winning both of this season's matches and its defense features left back John Arne Riise, who scored 21 goals in 234 appearance with Liverpool. Riise was with Liverpool when it won the Champions League in 2005.

APOEL has competed in the group stages of the competition three times.

The team features three Brazilians who could play: Carlao, Vinicius and Gustavo Manduca.

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SUAREZ'S ABSENCE

With Barcelona forward Luis Suarez absent, the team's attack will be in the hands of Messi, Neymar and Pedro Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that he expects APOEL to be a tough, physical team that will fall back to defend well.

"We are going to fight to reach the final of this competition," Rodriguez said. "Last season it was a shame to fall (in the quarterfinals) against Atletico Madrid, but we're very motivated to win."

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