Barcelona will be aiming to pick up their second Champions League win of the season when they take on Slavia Praha at the Sinobo Stadium on Wednesday.
The UEFA Champions League will be midway through the Group Stage on Wednesday, when the curtains fall on Matchday 3. A tight Group F has a couple of fascinating fixtures to offer, with our focus being on Barcelona’s visit to the Sinobo Stadium to lock horns with Slavia Praha.
Slavia Praha have continued dominating the Czech First League at the onset of the 2019-20 season. Perched atop the table the Cervenobili have a six-point lead over Viktoria Plzen. In the Champions League, however, Jindrich Trpisovsky’s men have been drawn in the group of death, but have still managed one point from their first two games to sit third in the standings ahead of Inter Milan.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have recovered from a slow start to the season and are gradually beginning to find their groove. With five wins in a row in all competitions, including four in La Liga, the Catalans have reached the top of the table for the first time this term. In the Champions League, Ernesto Valverde’s men will be buoyed by their comeback 2-1 win over Inter Milan last time out.
Slavia Praha and Barcelona will be going head to head for the first time on Wednesday and ahead of their first ever meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jindrich Trpisovsky has a few injury concerns to deal with before Barcelona pay his side a visit. On Wednesday, the Slavia Praha manager could be without as many as three-first team players, with David Hovorka and Laco Takacs facing a race against time to be available for the game. Ibrahim Traore, though, is a definite absentee due to a leg injury.
If Hovorka is unable to recover from his knock, Michal Frydrych is expected to continue deputising for him, partnering Ondrej Kudela at the heart of the Slavia Praha defence. Trpisovsky, meanwhile, rotated his side to keep some of his regulars fresh for the game against Barcelona, two among them being full-backs Vladimir Coufal and Jan Boril.
Coufal and Boril should both return to the starting lineup, with Ondrej Kolar taking his place in goal for the hosts. Nicolae Stanciu was another player who was given a bit of a breather and the 26-year-old will be deployed in the hole, given the license to roam and provide the creative thrust.
Petr Sevcik, who started in the no. 10 role against FK Pribram will drop down to the midfield pivot, where he will accompany Tomas Soucek. Stanciu will be flanked by Lukas Masopust and Peter Olayinka, with Stanislav Tecl expected to lead the line against Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kolar; Coufal, Kudela, Frydrych, Boril; Sevcik, Soucek; Masopust, Stanciu, Olayinka; Tecl
Ernesto Valverde will be forced to make a couple of changes against Slavia Praha, with Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto picking up knee injuries ahead of the trip to Prague. Half of Barcelona’s back four will, thus, have to be shuffled.
Gerard Pique, who missed the 3-0 win over Eibar due to suspension is a direct replacement for Umtiti, with Clement Lenglet being his central defensive partner. On the right side of the Barcelona defence, Nelson Semedo will start in place of the injured Roberto, with Jordi Alba starting on the opposite flank. Marc-Andre ter Stegen picks himself as Barcelona’s goalkeeper.
With the Blaugrana not scheduled to play this weekend, thanks to the El Clasico being postponed, Valverde should start all of his first-choice midfielders and forwards against Slavia Praha. Frenkie de Jong and Arthur will, therefore, don the creative hats for Barcelona, with Sergio Busquets playing the Anchor Man role in front of the backline.
Up ahead, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are certain starters. The final spot in the side will be contested between Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, who is available again after being banned this past weekend. And, Griezmann is expected to pip Dembele after showing signs of returning to form against Eibar.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
- Slavia Praha have lost only two of their last nine European fixtures at home (W4 D3), although those defeats have come in their last three contests.
- Barcelona have won only four of their last 14 away matches in European competition (D6 L4).
- Slavia Praha will be the 57th team that Barcelona have faced in the Champions League. The Catalans have registered at least one win over 54 of the other 56, failing only to beat IFK Goteborg (W0 D1 L1) and Borussia Dortmund (W0 D1 L0).
- Slavia Praha have failed to score in their last three UEFA Champions League games at home. Only three teams have gone four at home without a goal – Dinamo Zagreb (five between 2015 and 2016), Real Sociedad (four between 2004 and 2013) and Deportivo de La Coruna (four in 2004).
- Luis Suarez scored twice against Internazionale on Matchday 2 in Barcelona’s 2-1 victory – however, the Uruguayan is goalless in his last 19 away UEFA Champions League matches, attempting 59 shots without success since a goal against Roma in September 2015.
Player to Watch
Luis Suarez was a contender for this section, due to his away drought in the Champions League. But, Griezmann is a player who needs to start delivering on a consistent basis, thereby becoming our Player to Watch ahead of Suarez.
Largely playing out on the left side of the Barcelona attack, it has been a slow acclimatisation period for the Frenchman in an unfamiliar role. But, against Eibar this past weekend, Griezmann showed signs that he might be starting to get accustomed to his new role.
The game against Slavia Praha offers him another chance to impress. This time, Griezmann can all but nail down his spot in the side and in doing so, create a new Barcelona trio to fear – the MSG. A big game for the former Atletico Madrid talisman.
Slavia Praha 0-3 Barcelona
Slavia Praha are the minnows in Group F. But, they have hardly looked like one so far, taking the game to both Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund. However, goals have been hard to come by for the Czech champions in the Champions League, a problem that could continue against Barcelona.
As for the visitors, they have been slowly finding their feet and are coming into this game on the back of a five-match winning streak. Expect Barcelona to stretch that run to six, with Luis Suarez ending his drought and Antoine Griezmann continuing his resurgent run.
The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Barcelona, a result which could take them to the top of the Group F standings, seeing as current leaders Dortmund take on Inter in the other Group F fixture on Wednesday.