There is no doubt that FC Barcelona have an injury crisis on their hands, especially in terms of the defence, Luis Enrique was already having to cope without the Spanish international left back and centre back Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique and the problem got worse this week after the French star Jeremy Matthieu joined them on the sidelines after picking up a foot problem in the Catalonian Super Cup win over Espanyol on Tuesday, as reported by Sky Sports.
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Barcelona fans are still reeling from the shock La Liga defeat dished out by newly promoted Alaves at the weekend, so Luis Enrique is looking for an instant and emphatic return to form tonight against the Scottish champions Celtic in the first of the Champions League group games.
The main reason for that defeat in post people’s eyes was the manager’s decision to make seven changes and leave key players like Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and of course Lionel Messi on the bench and one of the reasons he would have done it was to keep them fresh for tonight.
Barcelona have a lot of pre-season training and then a few high profile friendly matches to get through before then, but on Friday August 12th Luis Enrique and his players will face the first of two legs against Sevilla to determine which club will pick up the Spanish Super Cup this year.
And despite Barcelona having a good recent record against the club from Andalucia, including the 2-0 win over them in last season’s Copa Del Rey final and a thrilling 5-4 win in extra time in last season’s UEFA Super Cup clash, these two games promise to be a very tough test.
To be honest, and this is no disrespect to the Arsenal side that will be facing Barcelona tonight, it should not really matter too much if our manager Luis Enrique gets his tactics wrong in north London tonight. It would probably only be a footnote in the annals of football history if Arsene Wenger and his players cdan spring a big surprise and win the first leg of the double-headed Champions League clash.
Barcelona have set the bar so high in recent seasons that any kind of wobble, regardless of how minor it may be, is going to be scrutinised in minute detail.
They are no ordinary side, they operate in a bubble those who have never experienced life inside can probably never fully understand.
They are, as they quite rightly like to point out, ‘mes que un club’.
It is for that reason that, despite sitting joint-top of their domestic division – with La Liga betting experts still fancying them to secure back-to-back crowns – and progressing positively in Europe, questions have been raised in recent weeks as to the productivity of their performances.
Luis Enrique and the Barcelona players will be under no illusion that they are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League just yet. But having today´s second leg at the Nou Camp and a 3-1 lead over PSG from the first leg at the Stade de France makes us clear favourites.
PSG need to score at least three times tonight but they do have a couple of key players back in the form of the former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfield maestro Marco Verratti. And we saw from the previous round against Chelsea that the French champions are capable of causing an upset, so we don´t really need the Real Madrid assistant Zinedine Zidane to tell us that PSG could possibly go through, as reported by ESPN.
I have been reading reports that FC Barcelona are not planning any big celebrations for this season, even though they have their destiny in their own hands and just need to win today to retain the title of champions of Spain. But this is ridiculous.
In fact, the Catalans should possibly view this trophy as the best, because it was the hardest to come by. With all the problems and twists in this landmark season, for Barcelona to finish it as champions, ahead of the two Champions League finalists from Madrid, would be pretty amazing.
FC Barcelona have enough problems on their hands without having to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, so Tata Martino and his players will have received the injury update from Carlo Ancelotti with open arms. Ronaldo is still out of action with what is being reported as tendonitis or a muscular problem in the thigh.
Andres Iniesta and other Barcelona players have refused, publicly at least, to accept that Real Madrid will be significantly weakened by this, as they have the likes of Isco, Di Mari and Morata who could take his place, but they must be pretty glad of the news really.