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Barcelona vs Sporting, Champions League: Team News, Preview, Predictions

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Can Barça finish their group stage campaign with a win?

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FC Barcelona Press Conference Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It’s a weird time at Barcelona right now. The team hasn’t lost a game in almost four months, they have a five-point lead at the top of La Liga, and they’ve already won their Champions League group with a game to spare, a group that also has Juventus in it.

And yet it seems everything is really, really bad right now. Injuries are piling up, there have been three draws in the last four games and the team just doesn’t look good at all right now. The 4-4-2 formation seems to suit the manager’s wish to protect his job more than the players, the style of play is too efficient and too hard to watch, and the defense is starting to concede quite a few goals lately.

It’s just really hard to be excited about anything when it comes to Barcelona these days, and the worrying thing is there are no real prospects for improvement in the future. Even the optimists are hanging on to Ousmane Dembélé and his return from injury, but can we really expect a 20-year-old who’s played three games for a new club in a new country to come in and fix everything?

Those who criticize Valverde, and those who want to give him time are running out of arguments. Tuesday’s Champions League match against Sporting gives the manager a chance to prove his worth with a bold team selection and a good plan so the team can get a really good win against a good opponent. Then again, we probably shouldn’t expect anything positive right now. It’s on the players to make us happier, but it’s on the manager to get the players ready to do it.

Please make us smile again, Ernesto. As crazy as it sounds, going unbeaten for four months is not what it takes to make Barça fans happy. Is it harsh? Maybe, but this is why we are FC Barcelona.


MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING

Date/Time: Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 8:45pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 7:45pm GMT (UK), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT (USA), 1:15am IST (India, Wednesday)

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia

Television: Fox Sports 1 (USA), BT Sport Extra (UK), TSN2 (Canada), Canal+ Sport 2 (Nigeria), Sony Six (India)

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)


TEAM NEWS

Barça have won the group and will finish in first place, so this really is a friendly. Valverde could use this opportunity to rotate his squad and maybe find new lineups for future matches, but more importantly it’s a chance to give people some rest. Lionel Messi never rests, so he starts, but Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez are all likely to be on the bench. Expect André Gomes to make his first start since returning from injury, and the big question is whether Gerard Deulofeu will be given a chance to regain his form. If he’s not starting, Paco Alcácer will probably play with Messi up front.


POSSIBLE LINEUPS

Barcelona (4-4-2)

Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Vermaelen, Digne; Roberto, Paulinho, Gomes, Denis; Messi, Alcácer

Sporting (4-2-3-1)

Patrício; Piccini, Coates, Mathieu, Coentrão; William, Battaglia: Gelson, Fernandes, Acuña; Dost


PREDICTION

It’s hard to know which Barça will be playing each game, but I’ll stay positive: 2-1 to the hosts.