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Barcelona in good shape for Slavia Prague test

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The Spanish champions are back in Champions League action

FC Barcelona v Inter: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

Barcelona turn their attentions back to the Champions League on Wednesday and will fancy their chances of taking control of the group with home and away games against Slavia Prague to come.

The Spanish champions head into the fixture in pretty good shape. After a tough start they are top of La Liga, Ernesto Valverde has an almost fully fit squad to choose from and the team are on a run of five straight wins (including three La Liga clean sheets in a row).

SD Eibar SAD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Slavia were considering the whipping boys of a tough Group F when the draw was made (remember the Slavia delegates bursting out laughing after being drawn with Barca, Inter and Dortmund?), yet they have shown in the early weeks of the 2019-20 season they should be not underestimated.

The team are unbeaten and six points clear at the top of their domestic league. They have won 11 of 13 matches, scoring 28 goals and conceding just three (including 10 clean sheets). They tend to share the goals around too: star man Tomáš Souček has five, Peter Olayinka and Josef Hušbauer both have four, while Vladimír Coufal, Nicolae Stanciu and Lukáš Masopust have two apiece.

Wednesday’s clash will see a first meeting between the two sides, and one which Barcelona will be heavy favourites for victory. Slavia were beaten 2-0 by Dortmund last time out in the competition, but that’s just their second defeat in their last nine European home games.

The Czech champions gave Inter an almighty scare in their opener. Olayinka had given the visitors the lead in the 63rd minute at San Siro, and they looked set for a first Champions League away victory until Nicolo Barella nicked a point in stoppage time.

FC Internazionale v Slavia Praha: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Slavia may have never faced Barca but do have recent experience of Spanish opposition. They knocked Sevilla out of the Europa League last season (drawing 2-2 away and winning a bonkers return game 4-3) and made it to the quarter-finals before going out to Chelsea 5-3 on aggregate.

The team may lack Champions League experience (this is only their second time in the group stages), but do have players with international experience that have shone in the recent Euro qualifiers.

Vladimír Coufal, Jan Bořil, Souček and Lukáš Masopust were all part of the Czech Republic side that beat England 2-1 and are just one win away from qualifying for Euro 2020.

Masopust came up with the assist for the winning goal, he also scored a pretty tidy volley as Slavia beat Cluj to book their place in the group stages.

Jindřich Trpišovský’s side will be underdogs for the match but will know all about Barca’s recent troubles away from home in Europe. The Spanish champions have won only four of their last 14 matches on the road in the tournament but do have a good record in the Czech Republic (they’ve won their last four) and in Prague (winning three of five visits).

Barca have been boosted by the return of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez from injury and both scored, along with Antoine Griezmann, in Saturday’s convincing 3-0 win over Eibar.

Suarez’s record away from home in Europe has been awful, but he does head into the game in good goalscoring form with five in his last four games. The question now is whether he can maintain that form in Prague on Wednesday.