Barcelona could not have asked for a more difficult match coming off the international break as they face Bayern Munich in their Champions League debut.
The Catalans have been the recipients of some embarrassing defeats at the hands of the German side with the 8-2 drubbing in Lisbon being the stand out.
That loss was with Lionel Messi. They not begin a new European adventure without the best player in the world in their squad.
Barcelona need to exorcize their demons against Bayern
A win for Barcelona would go a long way in terms of confidence and a sign the team is headed in the right path in the post-Messi era.
The kind of loss they suffered a few seasons ago tend to linger. Especially when facing that same opponent only two years later. Ronald Koeman was not the manager when that loss occurred but is hopeful will players will not dwell on it.
“Revenge? We’re talking about the events of a year ago,” Koeman said during his prematch press conference. “There were players who really suffered that night. The memory of what happened is something we’ll keep in mind. Maybe we can change the dynamic.”
Fortunately for Koeman, despite some injury questions heading into the match, he should have most of his players available. The club released their squad list which included Sergiño Dest and Jordi Alba. Both fullbacks were questionable after picking up injuries with their respective national teams.
The most notable absence, aside from the players with long-term injuries, is Martin Braithwaite. The Danish striker relapsed during a training session and it is likely he will need surgery on his knee and be out three to four months.
Having both fullbacks available gives Koeman the option to use a different formation. Last season, in the big matches, he switched to a 3-5-2 to add more protection in midfield. He could very well do the same here.
If Dest is unavailable to start the match, Oscar Mingueza is available and could play as a right wing-back. The backline could be made up of Gerard Pique, Ronald Araujo and Eric Garcia. Up front, without Braitwaite, Memphis and Luuk de Jong would make up the attack.
The biggest issue with this Barcelona side is defense. They are still making many of the same errors they were making last season but not being punished for it. Those errors will cost them against a side like Bayern Munich.
Someone other than Memphis or Frenkie de Jong are going to have to step up and help create goal scoring opportunities. Both the striker and midfielder have been at the forefront of Barcelona’s goals so far this season.
An added bonus is the match is going to take place at the Camp Nou with fans in attendance. In the loss at Lisbon, it was played behind closed doors.
The element of fans can be a positive and a negative. They’ll be there to motivate Barcelona but could turn quickly if things go south and Bayern Munich take the lead.
Barcelona is not considered to be one of the teams who seriously have a shot at winning the tournament. On paper, their team is weaker than in previous editions. They are in a rebuild. Realistically, they are going to finish second in group E.
However, they cannot afford another crushing defeat against another strong opponent. That was another flaw from last season. Barcelona has fallen from where they were just a couple of seasons ago. Now, simply putting in a competitive performance will be seen as progress.