Tonight is the night. Our biggest game of the season so far kicks off at 9pm local time. Live from the Allianz Arena. Barça will take on the German champions, Bayern Munich. It is by far the biggest and most important game of our season. Not only due to the magnitude of the opponent and all the recent history we have between us. But most importantly, it’s a chance to prove the everyone that we are more than ready to compete for all titles again, including the Champions League. We once again find ourselves in one of the toughest groups in the entire competition, and the most important thing is to give a good image of ourselves. We’ve been playing some absolutely brilliant football recently. Free flowing and dominant football. We’ve had tests along the way, including an away trip at Sevilla. But nothing comes close to the test we’ll be facing tonight.
Lessons from the past:
Over the last few years, we’ve been out up against Bayern more times than I can remember. It seems like we always face them in the champions league at some stage. Last season we were together in the group stages. Where we failed to beat them on either occasion. The first game was at the Camp Nou, under the reign of Ronald Koeman. And it’s safe to say, it wasn’t a good performance at all. We then came up against them a few months later under Xavi. And although we ended up losing on the day, we were a much better team than before. For once we actually competed with Bayern. We just didn’t have enough quality on the night. But when you flash forward a year. Things couldn’t be more different.
Their talisman and main goal threat, Robert Lewandowski, now plays for us. Which still feels surreal. We’ve had a complete and utter squad overhaul during the summer. Strengthening each and every position. Thus giving us a squad with incredible depth and quality. We have what it takes to compete with Bayern this time around, and this is our chance to prove it. It’s going to be an incredibly difficult game, but an exciting one too.
I say it every game day, but what’s incredible about our squad this season is the depth. The amount of quality in this team is astounding. And that has enabled us to rest and rotate pretty much the entire squad over the last week. All the players who came on against Plzen, started against Cadiz. And we were still able to put in a decent performance and rest a number of key players. Such as Lewandowski, Dembele and Pedri.
As for the game tonight, of course, we are going to go strong. And personally I feel the strongest possible lineup we can go for is as follows. Ter stegen starts in goal, hoping to continue his impressive start to the season. Bellerin had a good game against Cadiz, but I definitely wouldn’t start him against Bayern. Likewise, I definitely wouldn’t start Alonso or Alba. They’re both very good going forward, but defensively they will be ripped apart. Balde deserves to start and has comfortably been our best left back this season. It would be a huge game for him, but he deserves it. Kounde, although he prefers to play in the centre. And obviously that’s where he has to be the majority of the time. He is the perfect fit at right back for Xavi’s system. And playing alongside Araujo on that right hand side, makes the partnership even stronger. Eric Garcia hasn’t played for a couple games, but he will most likely join Araujo in the centre of defence. His ball playing ability can be crucial for how we execute the game plan.
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In midfield, I think it’s fairly simple. Pedri, Busquets and Gavi will all most likely start. It would be nice to see Kessie start. I think his strength and power would improve us greatly. As well as his runs into the box. But I just think for this game, Busi will get the start. Kessie will most probably start in the Inter Milan game. There’s always the debate on whether Gavi or Frenkie should start. But for me, it has to be Gavi. He’s a relentless animal out of possession. He’s got the most energy in the team, presses the best and sets the tempo for the rest of the team. In a game like this, we’re going to need all of that.
In attack, again I think it’s pretty self explanatory. The trident of Dembele, Lewandowski and Raphinha are all likely to start. Looking to exploit the space in behind Bayern’s defence. Ansu Fati could also start, after coming off the bench against Cadiz and scoring. And even if he doesn’t get in the starting eleven, he’s an incredible player to have come on as a sub. Lewandowski returns to the place where he called home for 8 years. And will be looking to extend his tally on the top of the UCL goal scoring charts. Raphinha will be making his debut in the champions league too. As it will be his first ever time playing in the competition. Alongside a quite incredible Ousmane Dembele. Who at this moment is comfortably the best pure winger in world football. And has proven so many times already this season how vital he is for us. He, like everyone in the team, are going to have to be at the very top of their game.
Kounde- Araujo- Eric- Balde
Pedri- Busi- Gavi
Dembele- Lewandowski- Raphinha