Following their dramatic victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, Barcelona gear up for an additional high-stakes showdown on their dwelling turf, in opposition to Shakhtar Donetsk within the third Champions League group stage match on Wednesday.
The Catalans are poised to clinch a spot within the spherical of 16 in the event that they safe a victory on this essential conflict, a goal they set for themselves on the outset of the season.
Accumulating all three factors may even present a considerable increase of confidence as they strategy the looming El Clasico showdown.
Nonetheless, the problem stays immense, compounded by a sequence of accidents which have plagued Barcelona.
In a recreation the place each ounce of warning is warranted, coach Xavi Hernandez can be anticipated to fastidiously navigate his restricted participant pool to stop additional accidents.
Whereas a well-deserved relaxation for Joao Cancelo has been referred to as for, circumstances depart no room for such luxuries, with no viable alternative within the right-back place.
On the alternative flank, Marcos Alonso is ready to take the reins, courtesy of Alejandro Balde’s untimely exit within the final recreation attributable to a sore calf.
It’s a smart option to hold the younger full-back in reserve, making certain his health for the upcoming weekend, and probably reuniting the formidable center-back pairing of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.
Nonetheless, Xavi may choose to relaxation Cancelo and experiment with Araujo at right-back, leading to Christensen and Inigo Martinez holding down the fort within the central protection.
Within the midfield division, Barcelona’s choices have dwindled additional with the suspension of Gavi, who incurred a late purple card of their conflict with FC Porto three weeks in the past.
Now, the onus falls on Oriol Romeu, Ilkay Gündogan, and the younger prodigy, Fermin Lopez.
The latter’s power, intelligence, and creativity have been incomes him belief inside the group, and his efficiency on this match might have profound implications for his position within the upcoming Clasico.
One other rising expertise, Lamine Yamal, is ready to return to his customary place on the proper wing, pushing Ferran Torres right into a central position after his stint on the proper over the weekend.
Joao Felix is poised to take his place on the left, hoping to proceed his unimaginable type and even perhaps discover the web in opposition to Shakhtar.
The 17-year-old sensation, Marc Guiu, has turned heads together with his in a single day emergence, and he’s more likely to make an look from the bench.
Ought to he be granted a chance, it will be nothing in need of spectacular if he might observe up on his dream debut together with his first European purpose.
Barcelona’s journey by way of the Champions League has been a take a look at of mettle, typified by their hard-fought 1-0 victory over Porto on matchday two.
Shakhtar, their subsequent challengers, are a facet identified for his or her persistence, as evidenced by their gorgeous comeback in opposition to Antwerp.
Intriguingly, Shakhtar Donetsk have had a rocky journey in latest Champions League group-stage matches, with solely two victories of their final 15 outings.
Regardless of boasting a superior head-to-head document in opposition to La Blaugrana, the guests enter the conflict because the “underdogs.”
Lord of Chaos
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have earned a brand new moniker – “The Lord of Chaos.”
In a topsy-turvy contest in opposition to Feyenoord, they managed to emerge victorious.
Nonetheless, Celtic might make a compelling case for that title as effectively.
The Scottish facet confronted adversity, shedding to Eredivisie membership with simply 9 males, earlier than struggling a heart-wrenching late defeat by the hands of Lazio.
Celtic’s Champions League woes have continued, with just one win of their final 23 group-stage matches, underlining the challenges they face.
Struggling for targets
For the conflict between Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, each groups have struggled to search out the again of the web.
Milan’s Davide Calabria lamented their missed alternatives, acknowledging that at this degree, squandered possibilities can show pricey.
Their goalless draw in opposition to Dortmund within the group stage exemplified their offensive struggles.
Paris Saint-Germain, however, conceded 4 targets in a bunch match for the primary time since 2001, in a humbling 4-1 defeat to Newcastle.
Kylian Mbappe of PSG reacts throughout a Newcastle United-PSG UEFA Champions League match, St. James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.Okay., Oct. 4, 2023. (Getty Pictures Picture)
Each groups discover themselves in a fiercely aggressive group, and because the strain mounts, the hunt for targets turns into ever extra crucial.
Forward of the Dortmund tie, Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier has exuded confidence as his group defied the percentages and bested Paris Saint-Germain.
Trippier emphasised the significance of placing their stamp on the sport, urgent successfully and testing their opponents’ defenders and goalkeeper.
Dortmund, however, have been unable to search out the again of the web of their first two group video games.
As the 2 sides conflict, expectations are excessive, however each groups discover themselves in several conditions, one in search of to proceed their success whereas the opposite is eager to make an announcement.
Regardless of a 3-1 defeat at dwelling to Manchester Metropolis on matchday two, Leipzig stay in a positive place within the group.
They acknowledge the necessity for refinement of their recreation. Defender Lukas Klostermann identified that they confirmed ardour of their defensive efforts however have been considerably frantic on the ball.
With their Serbian guests, Crvena Zvezda, having claimed their first factors within the group with a draw in opposition to Younger Boys, Leipzig intention to raise their efficiency.
Manchester Metropolis, grappling with harm woes, have seen less-regular starters step as much as the event.
Julian Alvarez has been a revelation, rising because the joint-top scorer within the competitors after two video games.
His essential strike propelled Metropolis to a 3-1 victory over Leipzig.
Midfielder Phil Foden has hailed Alvarez’s contributions, recognizing him as a go-to participant for important moments.
As Metropolis face Younger Boys in a double-header, the highlight stays firmly on Álvarez as he seeks so as to add to his burgeoning tally.
Regardless of Porto’s setback with a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona on matchday 2, defender Wendell stays optimistic about their power and their prospects within the competitors.
Antwerp, nonetheless, face a extra precarious state of affairs, having squandered a 2-0 result in Shakhtar in a 3-2 dwelling defeat.
Defender Owen Wijndal acknowledges the necessity for introspection and evaluation within the aftermath of the match.
As these two groups conflict, they’re pushed by the will to rectify previous errors and search a path to redemption.