In a special mid-week encounter, football fans will be treated to an exciting extravaganza featuring Barcelona and Manchester City. The match is being held to raise charity for the treatment and research of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease and to commemorate former Barcelona goalkeeper and who has worked closely with both Xavi and Pep Guardiola, Juan Carlos Unzue, who has been diagnosed with the disease.
While their activities in the transfer market generated plenty of hope, ambition, and excitement, the feelings did not exactly translate onto the pitch in Barcelona’s season-opening encounter against Rayo Vallecano. Despite dominating position and creating chances aplenty, Barcelona were eventually held to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou.
However, the Catalan club more than made up for it with a fantastic performance against Real Sociedad this weekend. While Xavi’s formation in the first half was difficult to understand and the players lacked role clarity as well, things got better with the passage of time. Ansu Fati’s arrival from the bench dramatically changed the course of the match.
The Barcelona No. 10 scored a goal and assisted twice as Barcelona secured a wonderful 1-4 triumph with new signing Robert Lewandowski finally getting off the mark at the Reale Arena. Lewandowski scored twice, while Ousmane Dembele and Fati also got on the scoresheet. That victory ended their four-match domestic drought without a goal or victory, stretching back to last season.
Xavi arrived in the middle of last season after Ronald Koeman’s departure and with the club in shambles. When he took over as head coach, they were sitting ninth in the La Liga, and were on the verge of getting eliminated from the Champions League group stages.
The World Cup winner guided his team to a respectable second-place finish in La Liga by the end of the season, with the highlight of the campaign being the memorable 4-0 annihilation of eventual champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Barcelona had also qualified for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League before suffering a shock upset at the hands of eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
Once short of quality attackers, Xavi now has the luxury to call upon superstars from Robert Lewandowski to Raphinha, and from Ousmane Dembele to Ansu Fati. Despite the constant outside noise surrounding their finances, Barcelona have had a magnificent transfer window adding plenty of wonderful assets to the squad.
One of these signings, Jules Kounde, will be expected to lead the backline against Manchester City tonight. Kounde was the most recent signing of the summer for Barcelona and due to wage bill problems, he hasn’t been registered with La Liga yet, thus missing the clashes with Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad.
The fixture with Manchester City will also show where Barcelona hold up against the very best in Europe. It’s quite clear that they have been a side in transition but Xavi has proven to be a very pragmatic and astute manager during his short stint so far. There’s no doubt that he will be desperate to challenge for all the titles this season now that they have the necessary tools at their disposal as well as the squad depth required.
Against Real Sociedad at San Sebastian, the 42-year-old Barcelona legend also showed that he can adapt well to situations that are thrown his way during games and can also make smart tactical adjustments and personnel changes to impact the team’s performance.
Even though the star-studded signings may have generated a lot of buzz and excitement, at their core, Barcelona have a flurry of young talents who have already proven their worth at the grandest of stages. Pedri, Ansu Fati, Gavi, Ronald Araujo, Ferran Torres, Alejandro Balde, Eric Garcia, and Pablo Torre form a young and solid nucleus who are expected to mark an era with the Catalan giants.
Having faced Manchester City on six occasions before, Barcelona have only lost one match. However, they have won all of their games held at the Camp Nou, with a combined score of 7-1.
Unsurprisingly, Manchester City have already begun their 2022/23 Premier League season with a bang. They are unbeaten after the first three matches and are second in the table with seven points, trailing Arsenal by two points. They have also scored as many goals (nine) as the table-toppers.
Heading into the weekend fixture against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park, Manchester City wouldn’t have been bothered too much. They had won 27 of the last 28 fixtures in which they had grabbed the first goal of the contest and it almost seemed like a formality that they would maintain their 100% record this season when Ilkay Gundogan scored inside five minutes to get their noses ahead.
However, the defending champions of England were surprised as the Magpies took over the momentum of the game and scored two goals to go into the break with a 2-1 lead at home. Allan Saint Maximin had terrorised the defence from the left flank all evening and things went from bad to worse for City as Kieran Trippier netted home a perfect free-kick to make it 3-1 early in the second half.
However, Pep Guardiola’s side showed exactly why they are the reigning champions of England. Overcoming setbacks is becoming a habit for this City side. They showed the same after scoring late goals to win the Premier League title having gone down to Aston Villa in the final matchday of the previous season. Here too, City woke up past the hour mark to score another couple of goals through Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva to take a point with them back to Manchester.
On Sunday, Pep Guardiola’s side became only the fourth team in the history of the Premier League to avoid a loss in three straight league fixtures when falling behind by two goals. The only other clubs that can also boast of this milestone are Manchester United (in October 1997), Liverpool (in December 2008), and West Ham (in April 2016).
Having taken seven points from a possible nine so far, it represents City’s best start to a Premier League campaign since 2019-20 where they had also collected the same number of points from their opening three fixtures. However, they had to settle for second place as Liverpool won the title by the end of the season.
Pep Guardiola is no stranger to the Camp Nou, having attained worldwide fame as a player first and then as a coach during his tenures with Barcelona. He has hinted that he will be rotating and giving minutes to players who have lacked that recently on his return to Catalunya.
Bernardo Silva, whose future has been constantly linked with Barcelona as the summer transfer window winds down, is also expected to play a key role in this contest. Meanwhile, former City players Eric Garcia and Ferran Torres might see some minutes as well.
BAR vs MCI, Club Friendly
Date: 25th August, 2022
Time: 1:00 AM IST
Venue: Camp Nou Spotify, Barcelona
Barcelona Club Friendlies form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Manchester City Club Friendlies form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Barcelona wins: 5
Manchester City wins: 1
Barcelona Team News:
Robert Lewandowski became the talk of the town, deservedly, following his top-tier performance against Real Sociedad. He scored one minute into the match at Reale Arena and became the fastest goal scorer for Barcelona since Andres Iniesta had netted a goal inside 45 seconds of a contest back in 2009.
The winner of the FIFA Best award got his goal campaign up and running with a brace on Sunday and showed his world-class ability all over the pitch. Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati also proved to be pivotal in the frontline. Fati’s great cameo off the bench may warrant him a start from the first minute here against City.
Sergio Busquets’ substitution also saw Xavi making a flurry of changes to the midfield but he is likely to go back to the tried and tested formation of 4-3-3. New signing Pablo Torre hasn’t seen too many minutes so far and might start this clash alongside fellow new arrival Franck Kessie.
Barcelona fans will also be desperate to witness Jules Kounde in action from the first minute.
Manchester City Team News:
Erling Haaland recently became only the third player in Premier League history to score a goal in each of the first two away league matches. The star signing of the summer notched up his third goal of the season this weekend at the St. James Park while Kevin De Bruyne’s fantastic defence-splitting pass to Bernardo Silva is already an early contender for the assist of the Premier League.
Phil Foden became the youngest to player to cross the milestone of 100 Premier League appearances on Sunday.
Ruben Dias had replaced Nathan Ake after the left-footed central defender had suffered an early injury against the Magpies and he will be unavailable here. Meanwhile, John Stones also recorded his first appearance in the English top flight this Sunday.
Bernardo Silva had started in place of Riyad Mahrez while Aymeric Laporte will miss the fixture completely due to an ACL injury. New signing and former Masia player Sergio Gomez was on the bench against Newcastle, but may start this clash.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Kounde, Pique, Alba, Roberto; Kessie, De Jong, Torre; Fati, Raphinha, Lewandowski
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson, Gomez, Stones, Dias, Walker; De Bruyne, Phillips, Grealish; Foden, Haaland, Bernardo Silva
Manchester City and Barcelona are arguably the two most talented sides in Europe on paper. Both Xavi and Pep Guardiola are familiar with each other’s methods and have known each other for over three decades. On the pitch, both sides also share similar style and philosophy.
However, in front of a sold out Camp Nou, it won’t be surprising if this match becomes a cagey affair as players who haven’t seen too many minutes are expected to start for either side. This will be a good opportunity for both managers to rest some key players after a few matches into the season. But, as is always the case with bragging rights, neither Xavi nor Guardiola would want to relent and as a result, a draw looks to be the most likely outcome.