Barcelona will kickstart their pre-season campaign with a contest against Tottenham Hotspur in the International Champions Cup on Sunday.

With the new season just around the corner, preparations are well and truly underway as Spanish champions Barcelona gear up to take on Premier League opponents Tottenham Hotspur at the Rose Bowl in the US on Sunday.

It will mark the Catalans’ first pre-season game, having only recently arrived in the United States. Manager Ernesto Valverde will go into the match without a host of his first-choice players, who are currently away on extended breaks owing to their involvement in the summer’s FIFA World Cup. While he will be keen on getting things started with a victory, the fixture offers him a chance to look at his options going into the new season.

Tottenham, on the other hand, will be playing their second game of the US tour, having thrashed AS Roma 4-1 in their first encounter. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are also missing a number of stars from the squad, but the performance against the Italians last time out was highly impressive and the Argentine manager will be hoping that his side carry that momentum against Barcelona on Sunday.

Team News and Tactics

Barcelona

Valverde has picked as many as 13 players from the Barcelona B team for the trip to the States, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic etc. being some of the regulars who will be absent. Academy prodigies Sergi Samper and Carles Alena also miss out due to injuries for the Catalans. Sunday’s game is also likely to come too soon for latest signing Malcom.

The manager is likely to go in with a 4-3-3 setup on Sunday, owing to the sheer number of options at his disposal in the middle of the park. Wantaway Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen is in line to start between the woodwork for the reigning Spanish champions, while Nelson Semedo and Lucas Digne are likely to start as the full-backs, looking to make strong statements ahead of the new season.

In the heart of the defence, with Pique and Samuel Umtiti both unavailable, new signing Clement Lenglet should be set to make his debut for the Blaugrana. He is likely to be paired up with Brazilian defender Marlon Santos who has returned after a loan spell at OGC Nice.

Another new summer arrival, Arthur, is in line to make his debut in the middle of the park for the Catalans, along with regular first-team member Sergi Roberto, who will be keen on moving back into a central midfield role after having featured as a right-back last term. The third slot in the middle is likely to be taken up by Denis Suarez, who will be tasked with providing the creativity moving forward.

Promising attacker Munir El Haddadi is a strong candidate for a spot out on the left-flank. The 22-year old has the guile to cause problems to the Spurs defence. On the opposite flank, with no Ousmane Dembele or Philippe Coutinho in the side, 20-year old Carles Perez is likely to get a chance to make an impression, having led Barcelona to the UEFA Youth League triumph last season. Spearheading the attack will be former Valencia striker Paco Alcacer.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Cillesen; Semedo, Lenglet, Marlon, Digne; Arthur, Roberto, Denis Suarez; Perez, Alcacer, Munir;

Tottenham Hotspur

Pochettino too, is without a number of A-listers in his squad, with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris still away on holidays following the World Cup. Midfielder Victor Wanyama is a doubt for Sunday’s match owing to a knee injury as well.

In Lloris’ absence, Michel Vorm started in goal against Roma last time out, but Paulo Gazzaniga could be in line for a starting berth against Barcelona. With Kieran Trippier unavailable, Serge Aurier will be hoping to nail down the right-back slot for himself. Ben Davies is expected to return to left-back, after starting in the centre of the backline last time out, with Davinson Sanchez set to take his place alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers.

With Wanyama likely to miss out and Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele not part of the squad, the midfield duo of Luke Amos and Moussa Sissoko that featured in the last match should once again find themselves in the starting line-up.

Creator-in-chief Christian Eriksen will take up the No.10 slot and look to carve out opportunities for his teammates in the final third. Support will be provided to the Danish playmaker by the South American duo of Lucas Moura, who grabbed a double against Roma last time out and Erik Lamela, who has a point to prove after a difficult last season.

Upfront, Fernando Llorente found the back of the net twice in the last encounter and that should be enough for him to hold on to his spot against the Spanish champions.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Aurier, Sanchez, Carter-Vickers, Davies; Amos, Sissoko; Lucas, Eriksen, Lamela; Llorente;

Journey so far in the International Champions Cup

This will be Barcelona’s first game of the 2018 International Champions Cup, following which they are scheduled to play Italian Serie A outfits AS Roma and AC Milan over the course of the next week. A win on Sunday should set the tone for the Catalans to have a strong pre-season campaign in the States, before they kickstart the new season with the Spanish Super Cup tie against Sevilla.

Tottenham registered a resounding 4-1 victory over Roma this past Thursday, led by a two-goal haul from Lucas and Llorente both, after they were pegged back by an early goal from Patrik Schick. With AC Milan to follow after the meeting with the Blaugrana this weekend, the Lilywhites should fancy their chances of winning the competition.

Player to watch

Lucas Moura (Tottenham Hotspur)

Lucas starred for Spurs against Roma (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Lucas starred for Spurs against Roma (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Having joined Spurs from Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window earlier this year, the Brazilian attacker did not enjoy the best of the initiations in the Premier League. So, the pre-season was always going to be important for Lucas, if he was to establish himself as a regular heading into the 2018-19 term.

And things look promising for the winger after his solid display earlier this week against Roma. The two goals will have given him a whole lot of confidence and his all-round display too was impressive. The 25-year old will now be hoping to build on it, as he looks to nail down a starting berth in Pochettino’s team for next season.

Prediction

Barcelona 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Both teams are without a number of key players heading into the encounter, but the fact that Tottenham already have a game under their belt is likely to give them a slight advantage. Moreover, the North Londoners also seem to have an edge in terms of experience within the squad, in comparison to Barcelona. And as a result, we at the Hard Tackle expect Pochettino’s side to register their second victory in the ICC 2018 on Sunday.

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