Barcelona will be looking to end their three-game winless run, when they take on Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur will welcome La Liga champions Barcelona to the Wembley Stadium for their second Group B match of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.
Tottenham started their European campaign on a losing note as they were beaten 2-1 by Inter Milan, despite taking the lead. Since then, the Lilywhites have racked up three consecutive victories, with the latest being a 2-0 triumph over Huddersfield Town this past weekend.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men won all their group games in the Champions League at Wembley last season and they will be aiming to carry on in the same vein of form and pick up their first points of this term in Europe.
Barcelona, on the other hand, began things strongly in the continental competition, thrashing Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven 4-0. Things haven’t been going all that well for them in La Liga though, as they are without a victory in their last three matches (D2, L1).
Manager Ernesto Valverde finds himself under pressure following the results, with his squad rotation and tactics under the scanner. A victory in England on Wednesday would go a long way in lifting some of the pressure on him and the Catalan outfit.
Team News & Tactics
Injuries galore for Pochettino and Tottenham to contend with, as they are without six first-team members heading into the contest against Barcelona. Dele Alli has been struggling with a hamstring injury while Michel Vorm (knee) and Serge Aurier (thigh) are also receiving treatment.
Christian Eriksen is recovering from a groin problem, while Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele were taken off at half-time against Huddersfield at the weekend and are ruled out till the international break. There is some good news however, as captain Hugo Lloris returned to training after missing the last six games with a thigh injury.
Pochettino is likely to set his team out in a 4-2-3-1 setup, ditching the three-man backline he utilized during the weekend. Lloris may have just returned to training, but he is likely to be thrust back into action straight away for the big game against Barcelona. Kieran Trippier is a guaranteed starter at right-back, while Ben Davies should be recalled on the opposite side, in place of Danny Rose.
Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez will pair up in the heart of the defence, while Eric Dier will be pushed further up into the midfield role. Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks will contest for the other pivot position in the middle of the park,. However, the former is likely to get the nod ahead of the academy graduate.
Erik Lamela should return to the starting XI on the right wing, after being benched for the weekend clash, while South Korean international Son Heung-min will be retained on the opposite flank. Brazilian attacking midfielder Lucas Moura has started the new season strongly and will find himself operating in the hole behind the striker.
Leading the line for the North Londoners will be star striker Harry Kane, who scored both the goals against Huddersfield at the weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Wanyama, Dier; Lamela, Moura, Son; Kane;
Barcelona will go into the game without utility man Sergi Roberto, who is out with an injury, while centre-back Samuel Umtiti is suspended after receiving a red card against PSV in the last game. Valverde has decided to leave out summer signing Malcom from the squad, along with academy graduates Sergi Samper and Carles Alena for the trip to London.
The former Athletic Bilbao boss has set his team out in a 4-3-3 setup in the ongoing season, but is likely to revert to the 4-4-2 formation that he utilized for majority of the last campaign.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certainty between the sticks for the Blaugrana, while Roberto’s injury-enforced absence means Nelson Semedo is set to start at right-back, with the ever-present Jordi Alba at left-back. Gerard Pique has been making a lot of uncharacteristic errors of late and will need to get back to his best. With Umtiti out, Clement Lenglet is in line to start alongside the former Spain international.
Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic is likely to be thrust out on the right-flank like he was in a number of games last season, in order to accommodate summer signing Arturo Vidal in the middle of the park. The Chilean’s presence would mean Sergio Busquets will have added support in screening the back four, while Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho will provide the creative spark from the left wing.
After having been surprisingly benched for the 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend, club captain Lionel Messi will return to spearhead the attack for Barcelona. He will be partnered at the top by Luis Suarez, who hasn’t scored an away goal in the Champions League for a whopping 1113 days.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Vidal, Busquets, Coutinho; Messi, Suarez;
- This will be only the third ever match between Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona, and the first since April 1982 in the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup, which Barcelona won 2-1 on aggregate.
- Barcelona have lost just one of their last 11 Champions League matches against English clubs (W8 D2), however they are without a win in their last two visits to England in the competition (D1 L1), a 1-1 draw with Chelsea last season and a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in 2016/17.
- Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has won only once in nine previous meetings with Barcelona as a manager in all competitions (D3 L5), all with former club Espanyol.
- Away from home, Barcelona have won just one of their last seven Champions League games (D3 L3), a 1-0 win over Portuguese side Sporting CP in last season’s group stage.
- Tottenham won all three of their home games in last season’s Champions League group stage, scoring exactly three goals in each match.
Player to watch
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
The little magician started the 2018-19 Champions League campaign with a bang, bagging a hat-trick against PSV in Barcelona’s first group encounter. In total, Messi, this season, has netted eight times already in nine matches across all competitions, while he has set up five more for his teammates.
The 31-year old was surprisingly omitted from the starting lineup for the weekend game, but at the end Barcelona needed him to help salvage a point as he came off the bench to set Munir up for the equalizer. Having been involved for just twenty minutes at the weekend, Messi will be well-rested and raring to go at Wembley. If he gets going, Spurs will have a hard time stopping him.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Barcelona
Both teams will pull no punches in their pursuit of a victory and it promises to be an entertaining affair at Wembley on Wednesday night. Based on recent form, Tottenham seem to have the upper hand, having registered three wins in a row, while Barcelona have failed to win in their last three fixtures.
However, the North Londoners come into the game without a number of key players, and while it did not affect them against Huddersfield at the weekend, Barcelona are at a different level and the absence of Eriksen, Alli and co., is likely to have an impact on the outcome of the match.
And as a result, we at The Hard Tackle expect the Catalans to come out on top against the Lilywhites, with that man Messi likely to be the difference maker.