The new season is finally here and Barcelona’s traditional season-opener, the Joan Gamper Trophy, is set to kick off in less than 24 hours as the Catalans’ prepare to take on Tottenham Hotspur.
The London-based side have engaged in many a battle with Barcelona over the years, and they will look to put up a battle on the night to round out their preparations ahead of the new season.
One can expect Xavi Hernandez to start his A team on the night, although there will be time for almost all the players to show their skills in front of the fans.
Here are three talking points ahead of Barcelona’s last game ahead of the new campaign.
New season, new stadium
Barcelona bid farewell to the Spotify Camp Nou in the best possible way last season as they lifted the La Liga trophy on its grasses.
It was, however, the final time they played in the iconic stadium.
The ambitious Espai Barça project is now underway, and the Catalans are set to shift base to Montjuic, which will be their home for the coming season at least.
Barcelona’s administration has been working hard to get the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys ready in time for the 2023-24 campaign.
The preparations are now seemingly complete and the Joan Gamper Trophy will be the team’s first game at their new base.
Montjuic will play host to the Gamper this year for only the third time in history: the last time it hosted the game going back to 1996.
The Joan Gamper clash has traditionally been Barcelona’s curtain-raiser ahead of the new season.
It is a night of celebration, one where the squad is presented to the fans, who get to relish their first sight of the new team and get an idea of what to expect as they conventionally face another strong European team.
With the team set to play their first home game at the new stadium as early as Matchday 2, tomorrow’s clash gives them the perfect atmosphere to get accustomed to their new home.
How much risk is too much risk?
Barcelona’s preseason tour to the United States of America brought its own set of positives and pitfalls.
Despite starting with a 5-3 loss to Arsenal, the Blaugranas came back strong to win their next two games on foreign soil – also recording a special 3-0 Clasico win in the process.
However, there was a price to pay as Xavi Hernandez was forced to substitute off both Andreas Christensen and Ilkay Gundogan against Real Madrid after both players complained of discomfort.
Reports state that neither player suffered an injury, but they did not play a part against AC Milan regardless.
With Gundogan and Christensen back in training now, Xavi has a decision to take ahead of the Gamper.
In an ideal scenario, it would be advisable to rest both players and field them in the La Liga opener at the weekend.
Yet, there is an equally strong argument to field them as the suspension of their friendly against Juventus meant Xavi did not get as much time as he would have hoped in the US to sound out his setups.
The Gamper is his final chance to pull off such a test before the serious business begins.
The Dembele factor
And speaking of serious business, Ousmane Dembele was the core of Xavi’s Barcelona last season, with the coach singing his praises and turning him into a very dangerous attacking presence in the team.
Lately, however, the Frenchman has been at the centre of a typhoon of transfer drama, with his move to Paris Saint-Germain seeming nearly complete, but one that has now been suspiciously held up.
Xavi Hernandez feels betrayed by the winger’s actions and decision to leave.
However, as the team steps onto the field for its next game, he will have to find a way to compensate for Dembele’s loss.
Raphinha is expected to start on the left wing against Spurs and will serve as the first-choice in the position this season – although there is a chance Dembele gets some minutes that will likely be his last as a Barcelona player.
Robert Lewandowski will start as the centre-forward on the night, hoping to continue his good run from last season.
On the right wing, however, it remains to be seen if the manager trusts Ansu Fati or hands the reins back to Gavi – who has been nursing a back issue.