Following a somewhat dramatic win away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend, Barcelona return to action on Tuesday night with a trip to the beautiful city of Athens for a crucial Champions League match against Olympiacos.
The Blaugrana comfortably beat the Greek champions at Camp Nou two weeks ago and reached nine points from their first three games, which put them in great position for early qualification to the knockout rounds. Thanks to other results in the group, Barça can qualify on Tuesday night with a win, so there’s no doubt the Catalan giants will be looking to finish the job early to avoid going to Turin needing a result against Juventus.
This will be a very emotional night for Ernesto Valverde, who returns to Olympiacos where he was widely successful as manager. The Greek club plan a great tribute to their former coach, and it will be nice to see someone recognize Valverde’s coaching ability for once.
Date/Time: Tuesday, October 31, 2017, 9:45pm local time, 8:45pm (Barcelona & Nigeria), 7:45pm (UK), 3:45pm ET, 12:45pm PT (USA), 1:15am IST (India, Wednesday)
Venue: Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus, Greece
Television: Fox Soccer Plus (USA), BT Sport Extra (UK), SuperSport 11 (Nigeria), SONY TEN 1 (India)
Online streaming: WatchESPN, Fox Soccer Match Pass (USA), BT Sport Live Streaming (UK), FuboTV (7-day free trial, click here to sign up)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
There are six first team players missing this one: Gerard Piqué is suspended, while Andrés Iniesta, Ousmane Dembélé, Rafinha Alcântara, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan are out due to injury. Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen, who are in the squad, are not even close to 100% fitness so Valverde may need to play Lucas Digne at center-back, which happened under Luis Enrique so it won’t be a first for Digne.
The biggest question for this game will be the formation: Valverde has gone with a lineup designed to control matches, and although a 4-4-2 formation isn’t exactly the most updated tactic in football, it’s given the Blaugrana some very good results away from home. The performances haven’t been great, but it’s very important to note that Valverde has been at the club for THREE MONTHS and has had to deal with Neymar’s surprising departure and Dembélé’s injury when the Frenchman was just starting to adapt.
At this point it’s impossible to know which lineup Valverde will chose. There isn’t a clear Gala XI like we saw with Luis Enrique, which (AGAIN) is understandable given we’re still in October and Valverde is still looking at the whole squad to find the best players and systems.
Oh, and Barça haven’t lost in 14 games. So maybe we should give the coach some time to work on the performances while the results remain fantastic? Just a thought.
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Digne, Alba; Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets, Denis; Messi, Suárez
Proto; Figueiras, Botía, Engels, Koutris; Romao, Gillet, Zdjelar; González, Fortounis, Emenike
We all know how this game’s gonna go, right? Barça will be brutally efficient and avoid trouble, so I’ll go with 2-0 to the visitors.