Barcelona's reign as Champions Cup holder could be over as early as Tuesday if the Spanish club loses at home to Inter Milan and group rival Rubin Kazan beats Dynamo Kiev. What may have seemed unthinkable when the draw was made in August is now a reality for coach Pep Guardiola and his side. And the fact that Lionel Messi was one of six players who missed training on Sunday added to Guardiola's woes as he faces up to a tough game against the Italian champion.
An attack of swine flu has already ruled out defender Eric Abidal and midfielder Yaya Toure, and Rafael Marquez is awaiting tests to see if he has become the third victim. Strikers Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have leg injuries and defender Gerard Pique could only do light training in the gym.
Barcelona goes into the game in third place in the group with five points, one behind Inter. Rubin, which captured its second consecutive Russian league title Saturday, also has five points and can make it eight when it hosts last place Kiev.
Even if Barca finishes level on points with Rubin after the last round of qualifying, the head-to-head record — Rubin won in Barcelona and played a scoreless draw in Kazan — would give the Russian club the edge.
Barcelona is not the only European heavyweight in danger of going out this week.
Five-time winner Liverpool is on the verge of elimination with five points to make up on second place Fiorentina. Lyon is already out of reach.
Rafa Benitez's team goes to Hungary to face Debrecen and even a victory won't be enough if Fiorentina beats Lyon at home. Liverpool's own form —one win in 10 games in all competitions — doesn't suggest a recovery, especially with striker Fernando Torres out of the lineup because of a groin problem and two more players picking up injuries in Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City in the Premier League.
Six teams have secured spots in the last 16 with two games to spare. They are Manchester United, Chelsea, Bordeaux, Lyon, FC Porto and Sevilla.