Barcelona play their first pre-season fixture against Chelsea on Tuesday, and all eyes will be on the Blaugranes and their squad for the 2019/20 season. With a host of new signings, a number of underperforming players with a point to prove, and a few rising stars looking to break into the starting XI, there are an array of Barca players who will be under the limelight come Tuesday night. Let’s take a look at which players Ernesto Valverde needs to field on match day as well as why they need such urgent exposure.
Starting at the back, this fixture will be an ideal opportunity to showcase new keeper Neto. While he has spent much of his career as his teams’ second choice, Neto is no stranger to playing against Europe’s strongest, having previously featured in the Champions League and Europa League. He should definitely be up for the match against Chelsea, and is sure to use the opportunity to prove himself to the fans as well as his team. With stiff competition against Marc-Andre ter Stegen for top spot, Neto will be sure to leave his heart on the field.
In defence, it would be justified (even if a little unexpected) for Valverde to select Jean-Clair Todibo and Samuel Umtiti as the centre-back pairing. Following Barca’s failure to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax, Barca have limited options at centre-back for the coming season, meaning that now is as good a time as any to get the fresh-legged Todibo and previously-injured Umititi into the swing of things and ready to take on the 2019/20 season. In addition, with Clement Lenglet having taken over Umtiti’s spot during his long-term injury, Umtiti will be keen to prove himself and earn his way back into the starting 11.
Shifting focus to Barca’s full-backs, and there are even fewer options, with only Jordi Alba, Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto up for selection. Last season saw Alba being heavily relied upon at left-back, so it may be prudent to allow either Semedo for Roberto to play in this position. This will at least afford one other full-back the opportunity to grow accustomed to a left-back role should Alba find himself unavailable at any point next season.
Fortunately, in the central midfield, Barca are spoiled for choice. However, it will be important that sensational new signing Frenkie de Jong gets his debut, as the Dutch star will be looking to establish a position in the first team as early as possible, and following his phenomenal campaign last season, will definitely be one to watch. This will also be an opportune time for Barca B graduate Carles Alena to feature, as not only is he one of Barca’s hottest young prospects, but he should also be a suitable replacement for the ageing Busquets and Rakitic when the time comes.
Moving onto the attacking line-up and one name currently seems to stand out from the rest: Antoine Griezmann. The media buzz surrounding his transfer has been reverberating around the football world, and the fans’ anticipation to see him walk out onto the pitch in a Barca shirt seems unparalleled. A match against top opposition such as Chelsea would be the perfect time for Barca to give their latest signing his debut, and should a weaker Chelsea side be fielded due to the friendly nature of the fixture, this would only increase Griezmann’s chances to make an impact on the final result. To witness Griezmann make his debut will stir up fans’ excitement ahead of what should be a memorable, star-studded 2019/20 season.