Just three days after the gruelling game away at Getafe, Barça are back in action again. Champions League starts once again, as the Catalans prepare for their first home game of the campaign. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Ferencváros.
Date and kick-off time: Tuesday 20 October 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Matchday 1
Referee: Sandro Schärer
The Champions League is back. The grandest of stages of club football is returning once again, barely two months after last season’s final. The group stages of the UEFA Champions League start this week with Barcelona in the group G. The first matchday sees Barça host Ferencváros in the Camp Nou, with Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv to follow in the coming weeks.
The competition has not been kind to Barcelona lately with disappointments reigning over happiness in the last four seasons. But, with a new coach, new players, and a new season, anything can change. The players can approach the new campaign with a fresh mindset without the pressure of being overwhelming favourites.
“We’re not the best favourites to win the Champions League, but we can go far.”Ronald Koeman (pre-match press conference)
The visitors are playing their first official game against Barcelona in their history. The Hungarians are back in the Champions League after a few stints in the Europa League. They have reached here after playing the qualifications and the playoffs and have accustomed to the competition. Nonetheless, they are the underdogs of Group G, and a positive result on the first matchday would send a statement to the other teams.
The hosts are understandably the favourites in the matchup, and the fans would expect a statement victory here to win them over. The hosts come from a defeat on the weekend, while the visitors remain unbeaten in their league. The Champions League can spring surprises out of nowhere, and the weekend of surprises could extend for the sake of the visitors.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Barça have played four official games this season coming into this game. While the first two displayed the strengths of the team, the latter two revealed the weaknesses of the new system and the players. Ronald Koeman has stuck with his 4-2-3-1 for all the games, and a lack of plan B is appalling. In the last two games, where the team struggled to break down blocks or navigate press, Koeman has just thrown in attacking players as subs.
While the attacking quality and technical proficiency are omnipresent, the lack of understanding between the players is concerning. However, the season is just getting started, and it would get better over the course of the season. The squad is arguably better and younger than previous seasons despite a few deficiencies in certain areas.
📰 — Koeman will make rotations against Ferencvarosi tomorrow, with the possibility of including Pjanic in the starting line-up. Fati and Coutinho will also most likely return to the starting XI. [md] pic.twitter.com/j4BuLXJ53I— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 19, 2020
The squad list will mostly remain the same as the last game with none of the injured players expected to return. With Real Madrid game on the weekend, a little rotation is likely from Ronald Koeman. Most of the players have travelled and played a lot during the international break, and this game could be a chance to rest them. Irrespective of the eleven in place, the prime objective would be to win the game with a good performance setting up for the next games.
What to expect from Ferencváros?
The Hungarian Champions play Barcelona for the first time in an official game despite getting found on the same year as Barcelona(1899). Over the years, they have played multiple friendlies against Barça with the last one happening 43 years ago. From a statistical point of view, the Catalans are unbeaten over the six games that happened over the course of more than 50 years.
The Zöld Sasok were one of the best teams in the country’s history during the mid 20th century. Hungary was the epitome of football during the era where they were better than any other country on the planet despite the lack of laurels. Ferencváros was Barça legend László Kubala’s home before he came to Spain as a refugee. He even returned to the Catalan club in a later stint as a coach.
Ferencváros have a settled eleven that they have used over the season. They have primarily used 4-2-3-1, the same as Barça. With two league victories in the last two years, they have secured a spot in the UCL after 25 years. With nine goals in the five qualifying games, they have an able attack to challenge big teams on the counter. Tokmac Chol Nguen is their top scorer this season and can be a potential goal threat cutting in from the left.
Coming into the game as obvious underdogs, they have a chance to spring a surprise with no expectations from their side. In recent years, Barça have struggled against the underdogs to some extent in the group stages.
Previous games: LDWWW
Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Celta Vigo 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 4–0 Villarreal | La Liga
Barcelona 1–0 Elche | Joan Gamper Trophy
Position in La Liga
7 points in 4 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss
8 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+6 Goal Difference
“We’ve played four games and we’ve scored eight goals, I don’t know if there is any team who does better. I’m not worried about scoring goals, we have enough quality. The last two games we’ve also played against teams that defend very well.”Ronald Koeman (pre-match press conference)
Previous games: WWDDW
Kisvarda 0–2 Ferencváros | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Ferencváros 2–1 Puskas Akademia| Nemzeti Bajnokság
Ferencváros 0–0 Molde | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Molde 3–3 Ferencváros | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Rackeve 1–6 Ferencváros | Magyur Kupa
Position in Nemzeti Bajnokság
13 points in 5 games
4 win, 1 draw and 0 losses
12 Goals Scored, 3 Goal Conceded
+9 Goal Difference
Last 5 meetings
Barcelona 3–0 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 2–2 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 3–3 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 4–0 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 2–0 Ferencváros | Friendly
• Barcelona are undefeated in their last 5 matches against Ferencváros.
• The last game between the two teams happened 43 years ago.
• Ferencváros are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 matches (Champions League).
Team news and possible line-ups
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Jordi Alba (Hamstring)
Roberto · Ronald Araújo · Lenglet · Dest
Frenkie de Jong · Pjanić
Dembélé · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Lovrencsics · Blazic · Kovacevic · Heister
Somalia · Kharatin·
Isael · Siger · Nguen
Coach: Serhiy Rebrov
The first Champions League game of the season for Barcelona is with possibly the most comfortable opponent they could have had. Even with heavy rotations, winning this game should be a cake-walk. However, anything can happen on UCL nights.
Barça Universal prediction: 4-0 win for the Catalans.
How should Barcelona lineup against Dynamo Kyiv?
If the horrid performance against Atletico Madrid was not enough, injuries continue to plague Barcelona’s season further. The Catalans were outplayed at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, the question is: How does the team recover from a defeat like that?
After initial injuries to Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets threatened to derail the Catalans season, the club has now confirmed both Gerard Pique and Seri Roberto to be out through injury for a long spell.
Yet, for all the mayhem in the league, Barcelona’s position in the champions league is safe. With three wins from their opening three encounters, they sit untouched at the top of the group. Ronald Koeman pointed to the same when asked about his decision of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong. With so many key players out injured and others rested, how should Barcelona line-up against Dynamo Kyiv?
What to expect from Dynamo Kyiv?
The first game between the two sides provided more than it had promised. Kyiv were missing 13 players through COVID-19, yet that did not reflect on the pitch. Barcelona dominated the opening spell of the game. However, beyond the 25-minute mark, there was a sudden drop in energy levels. The Catalans seemed to ease off, opening the gates to a close-fought level headed battle which could have gone either way.
Mircea Lucescu has stuck to his successful 4-1-4-1 in the Champions League too. The overload in midfield is a potent obstacle to most oppositions, though one would expect Barcelona to break it down. The Ukrainians have often resorted to, and will most probably look to once again implement a low block. The press is high, however, isn’t very prominent in the opposition half.
Lucescu will bring up a harbour of troubles for Barcelona. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)
Instead, Lucescu’s men look to hit on the counter. Victor Tsygankov, Vitaliy Buyalski and Vladydlav Supryaga have time and time again proved to invaluable for the same.
Learning from their mistakes, Barcelona will have to plug the spaces in between lines to come back home with all three points. It is a much younger side travelling to Ukraine. Moreover, with this being a chance for many of them to impress, one can expect the youth to step up.
How should the Barcelona line-up?
The only department that seems sorted for the time being is the Goalkeeper. Yet, ter Stegen too is coming off a horrid mistake at the Wanda Metropolitano. One that cost Barcelona the match. Undoubtedly, the German will be keen to make a statement on Tuesday.
The defence is in jeopardy. Gerard Pique could likely miss anywhere between three months to the end of the season after suffering a muscle sprain and partial cruciate ligament tear. Ronald Araujo is not fit to compete either, and with Samuel Umtiti’s state not helping the cause, Koeman stares into blackness.
Yet, one man’s loss is another’s gain. Given the situation, young Barcelona B centre-back Oscar Mingueza could get his chance to impress. In fact, it was a point Koeman specifically hinted to at the pre-match interview. Alongside him will undoubtedly be Clement Lenglet, whose importance is now more than ever. In Pique’s absence, the Frenchman will have to take up the onus of leadership and marshalling the troops.
Sergi Roberto’s injury opens the door for Sergino Dest to start the game at right-back. Unquestionably, his pace will be crucial to neutralise Kyiv’s threat on the counter.
At left-back, one expects Jordi Alba to start once again. In the absence of Lionel Messi, the Spaniard’s importance will be more than ever to create chances going forward.
Ronald Koeman could opt for a change in formation going into this clash, given his limited resources. Indeed, a 4-3-3 would be an ideal setup to try with the new crop of players. Miralem Pjanic could start as the defensive midfielder operating deeper in the position. Nevertheless, It is not a new role for the Bosnian, as he has played as a single pivot on many occasions in his career.
The midfield could be completed by the duo of Pedri and Carles Alena. Pedri had a comparatively quiet night against Atletico Madrid and will look to make amends. Carles Alena could finally get a well-deserved start after being neglected from the start of the season.
Antoine Griezmann could well start as the centre-forward on the night. The Frenchman has come under intense scrutiny by the media, both for his performances and statement made by people in his environment. Indeed, it will be an essential night for the World Cup winner, as he will lead the Catalan attack.
🗣 — Griezmann: "I am very well here at Barça, they have welcomed me very well. I want to help the team. They trusted me and now I want to reciprocate that trust by helping the team win. There is no problem with anyone, I'm really fine and I just ask you to leave me a bit calm." pic.twitter.com/XuOLl92GQH— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 23, 2020
Flanking him on the left side would be Ousmane Dembele, who is undoubtedly a major asset for Koeman. In these trying times with limited options, his all-round play comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On the right-flank, Fransisco Trincao would be the ideal option. Koeman has under-utilised the Portuguese winger so far. However, Tuesday night could be his chance to impress as the Dutch manager looks to rest key players. Moreover, his combination with Dest will be crucial for Barcelona to break down Lucescu’s side.