Messi Barcelona Neymar
Adriano, Messi, Neymar and Pedro during a training session for Barcelona ahead of their Champions League group stage match against Ajax, September 17Reuters

The manner in which Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League last season still lingers.

Bayern Munich absolutely mauled the former champions in the semifinals in the last edition, and that result will still be hurting pretty much every single Barca player in the dressing room.

It will be time for some redemption and to prove that they are still worthy of being called the best side in the world when they begin their champions League campaign against Ajax.

A few years back, this match would have been as big as any in Europe. However, with the standards in the Dutch league now nothing compared to 20 years ago, there will be one clear favourite - Barcelona, especially with the Spanish champions playing at home at the Camp Nou.

New manager Gerardo Martino is still trying to stamp his authority on the side, who at the end of the day look like a pale shadow without their talisman Lionel Messi.

Without Messi in the lineup Barca quickly become a side that are very much beatable, although still formidable.

"I am very excited about the chance to coach in the Champions League," Martino said. "I am also a little nervous to be involved in such a prestigious competition.

"When I took the job, I knew that if we didn't win a title this season it would be a failure. I believe we can repeat the glorious moments of recent seasons but matching the standards we have set will be tough."

All eyes as usual will be on Messi, and the little Argentine, who inspired Barca to a last-gasp victory at the weekend, will be keen to match if not top his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo's performance after the Real Madrid superstar smashed a cracking hat-trick on Tuesday against Galatasaray.

Ajax surprisingly meet Barcelona for the first time in European competition and the Dutch side should be happy to come away with a point. Ajax have improved considerably under Frank De Boer, and the former Barcelona defender has promised to stick to the side's attacking style against the might of the Spanish giants.

"It's not nice if everyone thinks Barcelona will win, but I'm sure we can cause problems for them," De Boer, who spent four years at Barca, said. "Barcelona are very offensive and we will have to be at our very best. Lots of teams have tried to beat them but if we stick to our style, I'll be happy."

The Ajax coach believes stopping Messi and Neymar from combining will be key to his side's fortunes on Wednesday.

"We will try to stop Neymar and Messi from feeling comfortable," he said. "We need our players to be at their best. Neymar has to adapt to the team and the team to him, but Neymar and Messi always create dangerous situations.

"He has connected with Messi. It'll be better and better from now on, the whole team works for them. But you never know what will happen with two stars in the team -- it won't be easy for them."

Team News: Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba joins Isaac Cuenca and Ibrahim Afellay on the injured list, while defender Carles Puyol is back in training as he looks to return from a long-term injury.

For Ajax, Siem De Jong has travelled with De Boer expecting the forward to play some part in the game.

Where to watch

The game is scheduled for a kickoff on Thursday morning (12.15 am IST) with the match set for a Live telecast on Ten Sports.

Expected lineups: Barcelona: Valdes; Adriano, Mascherano, Pique, Alves; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Fabregas, Messi, Neymar.

Ajax: Vermeer; Van Rhijn, Moisander, Denswil, Boilesen; Schone, Duarte, Serero; Sana, Hoesen, Fischer.

Prediction: 2-0 to Barcelona