Barcelona hope to continue their unbeaten start to the season with a successful debut in their European journey as the Blaugrana kick off the 2022-23 Champions League group stage with a game against Viktoria Plzen at the Spotify Camp Nou.
The Blaugrana continue to pick up impressive results on the road against great La Liga teams, and their victory over Sevilla last Saturday was a statement of intent in their chase for domestic glory. But they also want to win their first European Cup since 2015, and it won’t be easy to get out of a group that includes Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
That is why winning both matches against the Czech champions will be crucial to their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage, and Xavi Hernández’s troops must get all three points on Wednesday night. Here’s how we think Barça will line up against Plzen.
After enjoying full weeks of training in between their first four La Liga games, Barça have finally entered the crazy portion of the schedule that will have matches every three days until the World Cup. Rotation is crucial, and the squad is deep enough to do just that.
According to the early reports ahead of this one, the boss is expected to make four changes to the starting XI from the last two games, and two of those will happen at the back: Ronald Araujo and Eric García will most likely watch this one from the bench, giving Jules Kounde the chance to play in his favorite position at center-back alongside Andreas Christensen, who’s likely to come in after missing the last two games through illness.
That leaves a spot open at right-back, and there’s a chance Héctor Bellerín makes his Barça debut as a starter. But the most likely option is Sergi Roberto, who has been a regular substitute and playing well in his limited time on the pitch. The Catalan could get an opportunity to start here and continue making a case for more minutes over the next few weeks.
The third expected change could come in midfield with a rest for Gavi, who has been excellent in the last two games but needs a breather due to his high-intensity style of play. The good news there is a great replacement in Frenkie De Jong, who is very likely to start this one even if Xavi decides to keep Gavi and rest Pedri instead.
But the most likely midfield combination is the trio of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie and Pedri with Franck Kessie still waiting to make his first start. The Ivorian will get his chance soon enough, but Wednesday will probably not be his night.
The fourth and final of the rotations is the most expected one: Ousmane Dembélé, as well as he has played so far this season, is still a player with a tricky injury history who must be managed carefully to always be at or near his best for the most important games. The Frenchman will be replaced by either Ansu Fati, who really deserves a start by now, or Ferran Torres, who badly needs a big performance to not get lost in the shuffle.
If the reports are true, either Ansu or Ferran will be joined by Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski, who both scored against Sevilla and are known as extremely fit players who don’t really need to be rested that often. Lewandowski absolutely LOVES to play Champions League games against weaker teams, especially at home, and we might just be in for a special night in front of goal by the Pole.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Viktoria Plzen? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!