FC Barcelona vs FC Viktoria Plzen
Competition/Round: 2022-23 UEFA Champions League, Group C, Matchday 1
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Héctor Bellerín, Marcos Alonso, Miralem Pjanic (out)
Viktoria Plzen Outs & Doubts: Jan Kopic, Jan Kliment, Radim Reznik (out)
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 7, 2022, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Lawrence Visser (BEL)
VAR: Benoît Millot (FRA)
How to watch on TV: TUDN (USA), BT Sport 6 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Not Available (India), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
How to watch online: Paramount+ (USA), BT Sport.com (UK), Movistar+ (Spain), Sony LIV (India), others
Following an impressive win away to Sevilla to continue their unbeaten start to the La Liga season, Barcelona begin their European journey this season when they welcome Czech champions Viktoria Plzen to the Greatest Stadium on Earth, Brought To You By Spotify, for the opening match of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Xavi Hernández’s young troops are off to a strong beginning to the campaign, one that they hope will finish with them competing until the very end for all trophies, and maybe even winning a couple. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that was literally knocked out of the Europa League less than five months ago, and had very little reason to be encouraged about the future at this point a year ago when Ronald Koeman was the manager, there was no money, and it felt like things were about to get a lot worse.
It’s very easy to lose perspective in football, and all of us as fans have very short memories. But the mood is positive right now, and this is the first time in a half-decade that Barça fans can actually look forward to a European season with realistic hopes of winning the trophy with giant ears.
Even if they don’t win it, going out very late in the competition putting up a good fight in non-embarrassing fashion will feel like progress. This team is seriously talented, seriously deep, and well-coached by a young manager getting better and more experienced with every game.
This could be the start of a glorious continental adventure, but it must start with three points. Viktoria Plzen, who are unbeaten in their first 12 matches to start the season, will come to Camp Nou confident they can at least put up a solid fight and hope that Barça have an off-night to pull off an upset.
But this is still the worst team in the group, and with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan fighting with Barça for two spots in the knockout stage beating Plzen is hugely important for the Blaugrana’s aspirations of moving on. There will be some rotation but the team will still be more than strong enough, and Robert Lewandowski lives for European nights.
It’s time to hear that beautiful anthem again and hope to see a big win to kick off the European season in the right way.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran
Viktoria Plzen (4-2-3-1): Stanek; Havel, Hejda, Pernica, Jemelka; Kalvach, Bucha; Sykora, Vlkanova, Mosquera; Chory
Champions League nights at home against weaker teams are also known as Robert Lewandowski Nights. Plzen’s form is impressive, but the world’s best striker is a different animal and the team around him is playing well: 5-1 Barça, and a Lewy hattie. Also, I hate that I’m so optimistic.