After dropping points for the first time in La Liga with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid last Saturday, Barcelona return to action with their third Champions League game of the season against Olympiacos, who are yet to get a point in Group D.
On reflection, the draw against Atlético wasn’t all the bad. It was right after a decisive international break for many of the players, and they were up against one of the best teams in Europe. Getting a draw away to Diego Simeone’s Atleti really isn’t an awful result, and Ernesto Valverde made some very good substitutions in the second half when the team needed game-changing decisions from the coach.
Against Olympiacos, Barça must return to the winning ways in comfortable fashion to avoid any type of anxiety from the fans. A draw at Atlético is fine, but a bad game against the weakest team in the group at home will really bring a lot of doubt and questions to a Barça side that’s exceeded expectations in this young season.
Olympiacos have a few dangerous players on the counter-attack, but the gap in talent between these two teams is just too big. If Barça play well and win big, then everyone moves on from the result in Madrid and gets excited again. If they don’t play well and drop points, Valverde and the players should get ready for a few days of really harsh criticism.
So let’s just win, okay lads?
MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 8:45pm CET, 7:45pm (UK & Nigeria), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT (USA), 12:15am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia
Television: Fox Sports 2 (USA), BT Sport Extra (UK), SuperSport 11 (Nigeria), TSN1 (Canada), SONY TEN 1 (India), beIN SPORTS (Spain)
Online streaming: Fox Sports GO (USA), BT Sport Live Streaming (UK), TSN GO (Canada), FuboTV (7-day free trial, click here to sign up)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
Valverde hinted at rotations in his pre-match press conference, but we’ve already learned that Ernie hates rotations and we’ll probably see a very strong team on Wednesday night.
What we saw at the Wanda Metropolitano was a 4-2-2-2 designed to control the game and avoid counter-attacks, and the strategy worked to a certain extent. But after Atlético scored Barça lacked pace and creativity on the wings, and Gerard Deulofeu was the one who had a big impact in what was a very strong end to the game from the Blaugrana.
Because of his great performance on Saturday, Deulofeu should be rewarded with a start against Olympiacos, which would see the team return to a 4-3-3. Jordi Alba is out with an injury, so Lucas Digne has a rare chance to showcase his talents at left-back. Nélson Semedo should be the starting right-back, but we all know that he’ll be on the bench and Sergi Roberto will start. Don’t act surprised.
Moving on to the midfield, this looks like a perfect opportunity to rest Sergio Busquets. Andrés Iniesta’s creativity will be needed to break down what is likely to be a parked bus from the Greek champions, but Ivan Rakitic and Paulinho should be enough to secure the midfield and initiate possesion from the back. Busquets is perhaps the most important non-Messi player in the Barcelona squad, and any opportunity to give him a day off should be taken. This is one of them.
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Paulinho, Rakitic, Iniesta; Deulofeu, Messi, Suárez
Kapino; Elabdellaoui, Romao, Engels, Figueiras; Odjidja-Ofoe, Gillet; Carcela-González, Fortounis, Marin; Emenike
Olympiacos are a tricky team, but we should be too strong for them: 3-0 Barça.