Barcelona begin their pursuit of challenging for the UEFA Champions League after lacklustre campaigns with former coach Luis Enrique and current boss Ernesto Valverde, as they invite Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven to the Camp Nou in their first Group B match of the season.
Barcelona Host PSV in Group B of Champions League
After failing to get past the quarter-finals of the Champions League with now Spain boss Enrique in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, and with Valverde in the 2017/18 season, Barcelona have shown their intent of wanting the mega prize boasting squad depth after signings adequately this summer.
Barcelona were knocked out by Roma in the quarter-finals last season after bottling a 4-1 first-leg lead with a 3-0 loss in the second leg when Valverde seemed lost with his ideas as he could not avoid the embarrassment after having a tremendous league season when they nearly won it as invincibles.
But, Barcelona’s unbeaten run was ended in the penultimate game of the season at the hands of Levante, a 5-4 loss, which saw the team defeated for the first time in 44 La Liga games.
Now, they will be looking to build on the momentum they have in the current season after winning four matches in a row, and recently coming back from behind to win 2-1 at the Anoeta on Saturday.
The Champions League is a whole different territory as they will be hoping to get the better of PSV first, as England’s Tottenham Hotspur and Italy’s Inter also present a sustainable challenge to the Spanish champions.
Whereas, PSV qualified to the group stages after a 6-2 playoff win over BATE Borisov, and have won all five games of the league season, including a 7-0 away thrashing of Den Haag on Saturday.
PSV will surely find it hard to break Barcelona at the Camp Nou, and also the group containing Spurs and Inter. The match will be considered as the testament of its potential as a trip to Barcelona can be often nerve-wracking in terms of the goals they score at home.
Barcelona will most likely field Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal, with the German saving four brilliant shots in the Anoeta win. The position has been largely dominated by ter Stegen and he should start ahead of Jasper Cillessen.
The back four of Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba will probably start against PSV, considering the fact that Semedo played only 45 minutes against Real Sociedad. While Pique and Umtiti have been playing poorly of late, Valverde will not want to rotate his side in a Champions League game.
The midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho might as well start this time, but in light of Rakitic’s participation against Sociedad at the weekend, Valverde might also try on bringing one of the new signings Arthur Melo or Arturo Vidal.
The forward line will most likely be the same of talisman Lionel Messi, along with Luis Suarez, who looked confident against Sociedad as he bagged a goal in the weekend. In-form winger Ousmane Dembele might be benched this time around for Malcom, who was out for a few weeks with a ligament problem as the Frenchman started for Barcelona against Sociedad.
Similarly, PSV will most likely field Jeroen Zoet between the sticks, as the back four might contain full-backs Angelino and Denzel Dumfries along with centre-backs Nick Viergever and Daniel Schaad as those defenders have played all five games for PSV in the league this season.
The midfield might have Pablo Rosario, Jorrit Hendrix, and Gaston Pereiro, but Mark van Bommel might use Dante Rigo. Rigo has a slight injury concern.
If van Bommel goes for a 4-3-3, Rosario, Hendrix and Pereiro will cover the midfield three, but if he opts for a 4-2-3-1 which saw PSV hit seven at the weekend, Hendrix and Rosario will play in the midfield two with Pereiro playing as an attacking midfielder.
The forward line will might as well be the same, with Luuk de Jong as the centre-forward and Steven Bergwijn and Hirving Lozano attacking from either flank.
Winning all their four matches, Barcelona stand tall in La Liga with 12 points, and two ahead of arch-rival Real Madrid, who played a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Young winger Dembele has been among the standout performers for Barcelona with three goals in four games, while Messi is good as ever with four goals in as many games.
Suarez has shown signs of regaining his form back with goals in his back to back league games, while playmaker Coutinho is scoring and assisting for his teammates.
Having scored 14 goals in La Liga so far, Barcelona will like to exploit PSV’s defence, who have not let more than three in four games in the Dutch league.
PSV are having a good domestic season going for their title defence and will find it hard to break Barcelona’s defence, but considering De Jong’s and Lozano’s partnership, they will like to play an attacking game in Barcelona.