After a turbulent week, FC Barcelona will finally take to the pitch this evening to face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy.
Instead of having the six-time Ballon d’Or winner speak at the end of the game on his hopes and ambitions for the upcoming season as is customary in this fixture, the Blaugrana were further rocked by a teary press conference Lionel Messi held some nine and a half hours before kick off in the Camp Nou auditorium, where he confirmed the termination of a 21-year relationship with his boyhood outfit.
Now that his exit really is official, the cash-strapped Catalans must look to the future and prepare for the day they had always feared would come some two to three years earlier than expected given that the Argentine will probably join continental rivals PSG at the turn of the week.
To the match itself, SPORT describe tonight’s game as a “Champions League test” while it is probably better off forgetting that the Serie A giants thumped Barca 3-0 at home in said tournament just last December.
This is Juventus’ second participation in the Gamper since making their debut in 2005, in what was ironically Messi’s first outing in the spectacle where Barca lost 2-4 on penalties but the 18-year-old prodigy wowed then-Bianconeri coach Fabio Capello enough to try and get him on loan.
These are different times, though, of course. And Barca now need to make the best of what they have at their disposal.
With Marc-Andre ter Stegen still recovering from knee surgery, Neto is expected to continue manning the goal which Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergino Dest will help him protect.
In midfield, new first team captain Sergio Busquets provides pivot support to Riqui Puig and Sergi Roberto while Frenkie de Jong is out with a knock.
Something to note is that nobody will use the number 10 for obvious reasons, and that Memphis Depay has been given Martin Braithwaite’s 9 with the Dane now set to don 12 – at least tonight.
On the front line, both men are expected to be deployed by Ronald Koeman alongside Antoine Griezmann, who occupies Messi’s right side of attack slot.