Barcelona host Benfica on Tuesday evening, in what shall be Xavi’s first Champions League fixture as a supervisor.
The Blaugrana legend received his hugely-anticipated reign off to a profitable begin on Saturday evening, overcoming metropolis rivals Espanyol 1-0.
The victory was their first in 4 La Liga outings, inserting them sixth within the desk. Xavi shall be hoping for an additional optimistic consequence on Tuesday, in an effort to safe a spot within the Champions League knockout stage with a recreation to spare.
Of their manner are a Benfica aspect who’ve already crushed the Catalan giants 3-0 this time period. That was their solely victory in European competitors this marketing campaign, nevertheless, having misplaced their earlier two.
This is 90min’s preview of a weighted Champions League conflict.
When is kick off? Tuesday 23 November, 20:00 (GMT)
The place is it being performed? Camp Nou, Barcelona
What TV channel is it on? BT Sport ESPN (UK), fuboTV (US)
Highlights? BT Sport YouTube channel (UK)
Who’s the referee? Sergei Karasev
Who’s on VAR? Massimiliano Irrati
17-year-old Ilias Akhomach and 19-year-old Abde Ezzalzouli – each of whom massively impressed in Saturday’s win over Espanyol – are choices for the entrance line, though a return to the lineup for Philippe Coutinho is a extra doubtless choice for this crunch conflict.
Xavi should make do with out Pedri as soon as once more on Tuesday, though he could have Sergino Dest again within the squad after the USMNT worldwide resumed full coaching this week.
Sergio Aguero will miss Tuesday’s tie, having been absent since late October after being identified with cardiac arrhythmia. It’s not sure whether or not the Argentine legend will announce his early retirement following Xavi’s denial of such claims, though his continued absence is a certainty for now.
Happily for the guests, the worldwide break allowed their huge damage woes to subside considerably.
Jesus will nonetheless be with out ahead Rodrigo Pinho, though the likes of Rafa Silva, Darwin Nunez, Roman Yaremchuk and the potential return of Haris Seferovic present robust choices for the entrance line.
Joao Mario is again in coaching, though the freshness of his concern could imply a midfield berth for Pizzi is extra doubtless. In the meantime, central defender Lucas Verissimo stays out of competition, doubtless leading to a begin for 20-year-old Morato alongside the expertise of Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi.
Barcelona: ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Garcia, Alba; Puig, Busquets, de Jong; Coutinho, Depay, Gavi
Benfica: Vlachodimos; Otamendi, Morato, Vertonghen; Gliberto, Weigl, Pizzi, Grimaldo; Silva; Nunez, Yaremchuk
These two embellished golf equipment have met one another simply eight instances of their historical past, with the end result being a reasonably even match-up. Barcelona have registered three wins within the fixture, whereas Benfica have gained twice (three attracts).
The primary assembly between the 2 sides got here within the 1961 European Cup closing, when Benfica got here out 3-2 winners to safe the primary of their two consecutive triumphs.
It might take simply over 60 years and 6 extra conferences for the Portuguese outfit to beat the Catalans for a second time, incomes that resounding 3-0 win final day out.
In scoring twice that evening, Darwin Nunez grew to become the all-time file purpose scorer within the fixture – should you have been questioning.
Whereas that 3-0 defeat will nonetheless depart a bitter style, Barcelona will pose a really completely different problem to Benfica on Tuesday evening.
From despondency and a scarcity of path underneath Ronald Koeman, the followers now discover themselves full of pleasure and hope on the prospect of coming into a brand new period underneath Xavi.
The previous midfield maestro’s appointment has already reworked the ambiance across the membership and given glimpses of a return to the elemental footballing values of Barcelona. And it’ll inevitably proceed to encourage.
Though Benfica enter this tie in good type and signify tough opponents on an enormous evening for each golf equipment, the momentum and collective spirit surrounding Camp Nou at current ought to see Barcelona decide up the second victory of the Xavi period.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Benfica