FC Viktoria Plzen (4th, 0pts) vs FC Barcelona (3rd, 4pts)
Competition/Round: 2022-23 UEFA Champions League, Group C, Matchday 6
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Robert Lewandowski, Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, Sergio Busquets, Eric García, Sergi Roberto, Andreas Christensen, Memphis Depay (out)
Viktoria Plzen Outs & Doubts: Jhon Mosquera, Jan Sykora, Jan Kliment, Jan Kopic, Mohamed Tijani (out)
Date/Time: Tuesday, November 1, 2022, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm BST (UK), 4pm ET, 1pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Wednesday)
Venue: Doosan Arena, Plzen, Czech Republic
Referee: Radu Petrescu (ROU)
VAR: Marco Di Bello (ITA)
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada), BT Sport 6 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), SONY TEN 3 (India), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
Following a crucial last-second win over Valencia to keep pace with Real Madrid in the La Liga title race, Barcelona return to European action as they make the long trip to the Czech Republic for their final match in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League against Viktoria Plzen in the group stage finale.
It will take a while to fully recover from the emotional trauma of this Champions League season after all the promise and excitement created in the summer was followed by a truly horrible group stage campaign that added to the list of Barça’s European embarrassments in the last half-decade.
It’s not as if Barça played five excellent matches and were undone by a couple of bad individual mistakes or refereeing decisions. Apart from the opening match against Viktoria Plzen and the first 45 minutes away to Bayern Munich, Xavi Hernández’s team was very bad, at times very naive, and essentially lacking the requisite intensity and football spirit to truly compete amongst Europe’s elite.
The Europa League is a source for depression and soul-searching, not a chance for a trophy. Barça proved once again they are far, far away from being a real Champions League contender and it will take a few more seasons and transfer windows to truly rebuilt this squad into a continental force.
They might need a new manager too, and Xavi needs a really strong finish to this season to prove he is indeed the man to lead the rebuild. Winning La Liga is essential, and doing well in the Cup competitions is also a must.
But before we get to that, there is one meaningless contest against Plzen who are truly one of the worst sides in recent Champions League memory. They do want their final game to end with a glorious, famous win in front of their home fans against the mighty Barcelona, though, so the Czechs will come out on fire and look to cause a major upset.
Xavi will make big changes to his team and some fringe players will get crucial minutes to prove themselves, so even if the match means nothing in the grand scheme of things it could be a real game-changer at the individual level. The likes of Franck Kessie, Raphinha, Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati will benefit greatly from big performances in this one, and Barça Atlètic youngsters Pablo Torre, Marc Casadó, Ilias Akhomach and Álvaro Sanz are hoping for a dream chance to play for the first team on an European night.
If you decide to skip this one, you are not to blame.
For those of you who decide to come on this journey, let’s dance!
Barcelona (4-3-3): Peña; Bellerín, Piqué, Alonso, Alba; Kessie, De Jong, Gavi; Raphinha, Ferran, Fati
Viktoria Plzen (4-2-3-1): Stanek; Havel, Hejda, Pernica, Jemelka; Kalvach, Bucha; Jirka, Vlkanova, Pilar; Chory
I’ve watched every Barcelona match over the last 8 and a half years. I’ve never cared so little about a Barça game. But I’ll still hold the team to a high standard and expect them to leave the Champions League in positive fashion: 4-1 to the good guys.