After the disappointing 2-1 loss against Valencia in Copa Del Rey on 26th May, FC Barcelona moves towards the beginning of a brand new season with a lot of hopes and dreams to conquer the European Football. With that being said, let’s move towards our pre-season. In this blog post, I am going to give you a preview of our first pre-season match against Chelsea in Rakuten Cup.
But before I start the preview, let’s discuss the pre-season in detail. Basically, FC Barcelona is going to take part in 3 different competitions in the pre-season which will be held in 3 different continents. The first one is “Rakuten Cup” held in Japan where Barca will play 2 matches in total against Chelsea and Vissel Kobe. The second competition is “Joan Gamper Trophy,” which will take place in Spain where Balgurana will compete against Arsenal. Finally, the third one is “La Liga-Serie A Cup” that will take place in America where the Ruling Champions of Spain will play 2 friendly matches against Napoli.
Here, I have tried to cover everything regarding our pre-season in a single paragraph since our main focus is on the match preview of FC Barcelona vs Chelsea in Rakuten Cup. However, I am going to write a separate blog post on our pre-season and its importance very soon. For the time being, let’s begin our match preview.
Squad For Rakuten Cup 2019:
First of all, 26 Barca Players have traveled to Japan to take part in the pre-season tournament. The squad consists of 17 players from the first team and 9 players from the Barca B Team. You can see the details of the squad down below:
- Ter Stegen
- Iñaki Peña (Barca B)
- Jordi Alba
- Guillem (Barca B)
- Araujo (Barca B)
- De Jong
- Busquets (Barca B)
- Riqui Puig (Barca B)
- Monchu (Barca B)
- Collado (Barca B)
- Hiroki Abe (Barca B)
- Pérez (Barca B)
You can see that some star players from the first team, i.e., Messi, Suarez, Coutinho, and Vidal are not included in the squad because they participated in Copa America and they simply needed the rest and some time to spend with their families. Similarly, Moussa Wague is a player that we all hoped to see in the squad is not included because of his participation in the Nations Cup.
The squad for this tour is quite competitive simply because of the 17 first team payers including our 3 new signings F. De Jong, Antione Girezmann, And Neto who will get a chance to demonstrate their skills and link-up with the team in a friendly tournament. Moreover, some real prospects from the Barca B team will get the chance to gain some valuable experience including the Riqui Puig (who is believed to be promoted to the first team by January), O. Busquets, and our brand new Japanese signing Hiroki Abe.
Well, that’s all for the squad that traveled to Japan for Rakuten Cup. I would write a separate blog post regarding the Rakuten Cup Squad in detail. Now, let’s turn our cannons towards our first match preview that’s FC Barcelona vs Chelsea.
FC Barcelona vs Chelsea Match Preview:
The kick-off will come live from Tokyo at 07:30 PM Local Time. You can see the kick-off timing in different countries in the picture given below:
For me, the focus of the match should not be on the result. Obviously, we would love to win, but our primary focus is not winning the game, the victory isn’t important in a pre-season. The same thing goes for Chelsea. The main objective of the pre-season is to integrate B team players and in the team and give a chance to youngsters to prove their worth.
Most importantly, it’s the perfect opportunity to integrate the newly signed players in the team and see how they link up with other players. I think of pre-season as a high-level competitive training to get ready for the actual season. This is the time for the coach to analyze the team and build a vague structure of the team.
Before talking about the match in detail, I would like to highlight that Chelsea is now coached by Frank Lampard, who is a legend, and most importantly, a great tactician. The second thing I am excited about is the reunion of Barca and Pedro Rodríguez.
In terms of preparation, Chelsea had a lot more time than us to prepare themselves for the pre-season. They are in much better shape than us at the moment. Their physicality is way better than us, and we have to accept that we are going to be second favorites in this particular game. However, this does not mean that we cannot win this match. But, as I mentioned earlier, our primary objective is not to win the game but to analyze the team and learn about its strengths and weakness to benefit in the long season.
Right through this game and throughout the whole pre-season, we should be looking at 2 vital and crucial aspects.
It’s all about fitness and sharpness. Our objective is to get every single player in the squad to be physically fit and match-ready to start the season in a firing manner and to put pressure on our rivals. Throughout our training sessions, all the players have looked good, but they are nowhere near match-ready in terms of a competitive match. The pre-season is the perfect opportunity for us to get in shape and lay the foundations of a really strong season.
Here we should be focusing on Dembele and Umtiti who had a patch of serious injuries last season. It’s a great opportunity for both of these players to get down to some serious business. We know the quality of both these players, and we are well aware of the magic that they can produce on the pitch when they are fully fit.
2. A Clear Identity:
The second important thing for me is the philosophy and match plan. Wherever we are playing, wheater it’s a Friendly Match, Leauge Match, or a Champions Leauge Match, we should have a clear identity. Moreover, it does not matter who is playing in the team or which player is being substituted, each and every player should be playing in the same way, giving their 100%.
I don’t want to see another disappointment like the previous 2 seasons. At the moment, we have the players who are capable of lifting the Champions League and the players who are tailor-made for Barcelona’s style of football. I am fed up of physical and attacking teams bullying us. I want our team to be feared as they used to be. We have already signed F. De Jong and Antione Griezmann, and possibly going to sign a new LB. We cannot have any excuses, we have the arsenal to be the best, and we have to show it to the world.
We will see a starting XI with a lot of substitutions. Ultimately, we can expect all starting XI players to be substituted. The main thing here is that even if the quality of the players drop on the pitch, it should not affect the structure and identity of the team. It does not matter if it’s a newly signed player, a Barca B player, or a Previous First team player, everyone should be continuously playing in the Barcelona Branded Football Way.
In terms of lineup, it’s really difficult to predict a starting lineup. But I am sure that we will see a lot of changes. I strongly believe that we should see a mix of First team players and B team players. Obviously, it’s important to give a chance to the new signings to help them integrate themselves in the team.
As per my judgment, Valverde is going to play 2 different teams in both halves. So, I am going to share 2 lineups that I expect to see. I believe that Valverde will go with a strong team in the first half. Maybe he would bring in the B-team players in the second half to experiment with the squad.
First Half Lineup:
Here is what I think would be our starting XI:
I am really looking forward to seeing Dembele, Griezmann, and Malcom as our front three attacking players. I expect to see Dembele on the LW, Girezmann, in a Central Role, and Malcom on the right-hand side.
First of all, Messi, Suarez, and Coutinho are not available. So, these three are the only first-team forwards in the squad. Secondly, Malcom has not been given a proper chance to adjust in the team in the previous season. I strongly believe that he deserves the chance to start the game.
I am really excited to see these three players in our starting lineup as all three of them can play in all attacking positions. Moreover, I would love to see them switching positions like MSN used to do and cause havoc for the defending team.
I am expecting Busquets, De Jong, and Rakitic to start in the heart of our midfield with Busquets and De Jong as Holding Midfielders and Rakitic playing in a little bit advanced role.
I think Valverde will select Jordi Alba (LB), Umtiti (LCB), Pique (RCB), and Semedo(RB) in the starting lineup.
Judging by the nature of Valverde, he is going to start Ter Stegen. I expect Valverde to replace Mats with Neto in the second half.
Second Half Lineup:
In the second half, I expect Valverde to sub-off all of the XI players and replace them by young talented players to experiment with the squad.
As per my predictions, I expect to see Collado on the left-wing, Alena in the central role, and Rafinha on the right-hand side.
In the second half, Oriel, Puig, and Hiroki Abe may be playing in the midfield where Oriel will play as a defensive midfielder, Puig as a central midfielder, and the native Japanese Hiroki as an attacking midfielder.
I am expecting to see Guillem at the LB, Lenglet at the LCB, Todibo at the RCB, and Roberto on the RB. I am really excited to watch Todibo play because he really gave me hope when he played last time for FC Barcelona.
Our new signing Neto will be starting as our goalkeeper in the second half. Alternatively, we may even see him play right from the start.
In the end, I would say that I am really excited for our first match of our pre-season. I am especially thrilled to watch Griezmann, De Jong, and Puig play in the team. Furthermore, our objective is to shape this team for a firing start of the new season; we are going as second favorites, so don’t lose hope if we end up losing this game. I would like to get your feedback on this article and would love to hear your opinion regarding our pre-season. Which player are you excited to watch? Let me know in the comments section below. Visca El Barca!