FC Barcelona Vs. Royal Antwerp Preview: Xavi Makes Three Big Changes For Champions League Debut


FC Barcelona will make three big changes to the starting line up that faced Real Betis in La Liga on Saturday when they host Royal Antwerp for their Champions League debut.

The Catalans trounced the Andalusians 5-0 at the weekend, in what was widely hailed their best performance in an age while also allowing them to temporarily return to the summit of the Spanish top flight.

Winning the domestic championship in the spring put Barca in Pot 1 when the Champions League draw was made in Monte Carlo last month.

They were drawn in a relatively easy group compared to past years, and have a strong chance of successfully qualifying out of it to the knockout phases for the first time in three seasons.

On Tuesday, Barca’s temporary new home the Montjuic Stadium hosts a UCL match for the first time in its 96-year history as well.

For the debut Group H encounter, Barca coach Xavi Hernandez is expected to make three big changes compared to the starting XI that dismantled Betis 72 hours ago.

Two of them come up top, with Raphinha stepping in for an impressive Ferran Torres in what will be the Brazilian’s first start since he was red-carded at Getafe in the Blaugrana’s season opener.

On the other side of Robert Lewandowski, Gavi acts as a false left winger meaning that Xavi will abandon the 4-3-3 with two widemen which puts Joao Felix on the bench.

In midfield, Ilkay Gundogan returns to star from the offset following a back injury scare on international duty with Germany.

He is joined by Oriol Romeu and Frenkie de Jong in the centre of the park, with the ex-Girona man the pivot as usual.

On the back line, Felix’s fellow new arrival and compatriot namesake Joao Cancelo manages to keep his spot at right back after a similarly-blistering starting debut last time out where he too got on the score sheet.

With Xavi boasting no natural right back, and Cancelo able to effortlessly drift inside and act as a fifth midfielder, it will be difficult to budge the Manchester City man off the pitch.

Helping him trying to grant a clean sheet for Marc-Andre ter Stegen are the same defenders as Saturday in Alejandro Balde, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde.

FC Barcelona Lineup Versus Royal Antwerp: Ter Stegen; Balde, Christensen, Kounde, Cancelo; Romeu, Gundogan, De Jong; Gavi, Lewandowski, Raphinha



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