Luuk de Jong and Yusuf Demir could be set for a start as FC Barcelona play hosts to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League this evening.
Barcelona brace themselves for their most challenging task this season as they welcome Bayern Munich at Camp Nou tonight. With the wounds of the 8-2 hammering still fresh, the Spanish giants will be aware of the chances or lack thereof, as they look to start their UEFA Champions League campaign on a positive note.
“That was a year ago. Of course they were hurt in that defeat, you can’t forget that, we can’t change it. But we are going to prepare the best we can for the game and make sure there’s a lot of intensity in the 90 mins. We can win of course. We have good players and we need to use our style to hurt the opposition,” Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman said, when asked about the defeat, ahead of the game.
For this game, the Dutchman is missing out on a host of key players including the four offensive players in Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Aguero, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. Furthermore, Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are not 100% fit, though it appears Pique and Alba might be risked given the importance of the clash.
During the pre-match press conference, Koeman was coy when asked about the potential application of a back three against Bayern. “People talk about centre-backs but that’s not the key, the system is more important. If you lose balls at the back, they will do us a lot of damage. Bayern are physically very good. It’s very important for us to keep hold of the ball and find the spaces where we can punish them,” he said.
Nevertheless, with Dest not fit enough to start, we are expecting Oscar Migueza to be given a nod at right-back, with Pique and Ronald Araujo forming the central defensive pairing. Things remain muddled at left-back where Alba is the only reliable option, after the summer exit of Junior Firpo. The veteran might be risked as well, knowing Barca do not have any other option.
In midfield, Koeman does, fortunately, have the privilege of sticking to his preferred trio of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. Given the makeshift nature of the Barcelona defence, though, it won’t be surprising to see Busquets operating deeper than usual, with de Jong being the main orchestrator.
In the attack, the Catalans have a difficult choice to make. Memphis Depay is a surefire starter, but with Aguero, Braithwaite out injured, the onus will be on new signing Luuk de Jong to operate in the number nine position. The remaining right-wing slot is a mystery, with Yusuf Demir and Philippe Coutinho competing for a spot.
Koeman didn’t sound all too confident when asked about Coutinho potentially starting the game, stating, “Coutinho has been out for a long time but is improving. He needs playing time, it’s important for him,” he said. As such, we are expecting Demir to operate out wide, with Coutinho likely to be utilised as a second-half substitute.
Predicted Barcelona XI: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Pique, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Frenkie de Jong; Demir, Luuk de Jong, Depay