FC Barcelona return home tomorrow for their traditional curtain raiser as they prepare to contest the Joan Gamper Trophy against Serie A runners-up, AS Roma at the Camp Nou. The match serves as the presentation for the first team squad for the upcoming season and typically, we see some spectacular football dished up alongside that. However, with sterner opposition in the form of i Giallorossi, perhaps it would be prudent to leave the 8-0 predictions back at home this year.
Of course, this will be the Blaugrana’s final match of a somewhat inconsistent and shaky pre-season campaign, so all eyes will be Luis Enrique’s side ahead of next week’s UEFA Super Cup clash with UEFA Europa League winners and La Liga rivals, Sevilla FC. Thankfully, we’ll have a few extra reinforcements to call upon as compared to our showdown with AFC Fiorentina. Just some guys called Lionel Messi and Neymar, nothing too major…
Also back in the fold will be Copa America winner, Claudio Bravo, our new fourth captain, Javier Mascherano and eccentric Brazilian full-back Dani Alves, who will be making his first appearance since extending his stay in Catalunya for another couple of seasons.
Expect a party atmosphere at the Camp Nou, and a tight, well-contested match between two of Europe’s best sides. I for one, cannot wait.
Another welcome back to our Copa America stars, it’s been tough without you – and I think we can all agree, two months without seeing Lionel Messi sporting a Blaugrana jersey is far too long. The prospect of seeing him reunite with Neymar and Luis Suarez after his difficult summer with Gonzalo Higuain is mouth-watering – and Luis Enrique is probably relishing the chance to field the MSN triumvirate again after a disappointing spell in the International Champions Cup.
In goal, Claudio Bravo will probably start to build up his match sharpness and I am fully expecting a full strength backline to join him; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba should all be in line for starts, although in practice, one of the four might drop to the bench to make our second-half line-up a little stronger.
In midfield, we all know that Sergi Samper probably won’t see the field, so it’s up to Sergio Busquets to anchor the midfield, with Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic favourites to join him in the middle of the park. Maybe Rafinha could displace Rakitic, but I at least expect to see our newly-appointed captain leading us out tomorrow.
Second-half will likely bring a plethora of changes; possibly a last-ever Camp Nou appearance for Pedro could be in the offing, while Sergi Roberto could continue his growth as makeshift right-back. Sandro should also see some time, while I anticipate that Thomas Vermaelen will also see 45 minutes of action. Just no more Gerard Gumbau, please Lucho?
This match will certainly come too soon for rumoured recruit, Edin Dzeko, but Roma have selected a strong squad for this match and will be more than capable of walking out victors in this anniversary edition of the Gamper.
Wojciech Szczesny could start in goal after his move from Arsenal, and there could also be space in the match squad for former Barcelona youth teamers, Iago Falque and Antonio Sanabria. My ones to watch would be Miralem Pjanic, Leandro Paredes, Juan Manuel Iturbe and of course, the timeless Francesco Totti.
Home advantage and Lionel Messi should tip the scales in our favour; I’m going for 3-1 Barcelona.