Barcelona is set to welcome Champions League newcomers Antwerp for their first Group H match on Tuesday evening at the Estadi Olympic Luis Companys, as their Camp Nou undergoes renovations.
Champions League is BACK! 📸
— Match Spoots (@matchspoots) September 17, 2023
Under the leadership of Xavi, Barcelona is highly motivated to rectify last season’s shocking group stage exit and secure an early qualification for the knockout stage.
They enter this match as clear favorites against the Belgian side, especially considering their impressive attacking performances in recent domestic league matches.
Blaugrana began the new La Liga season with a disappointing goalless draw against Getafe. However, they quickly rebounded with three consecutive wins, netting eight goals in the process.
Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres have both contributed two goals each this season, while Ilkay Gundogan has provided two crucial assists.
Meanwhile, Antwerp currently occupies the 8th position in the Belgian First Division A standings after six rounds.
Their recent domestic league form has been less than stellar, with just one win in their last four matches, including a 2-2 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise just before the international break.
It’s worth noting that Antwerp previously participated in the UEFA Europa League group phase two years ago, where they finished at the bottom of their group, alongside Olympiacos, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Fenerbahce.
Barcelona continues to miss Ronald Araujo and Pedri due to injuries, but there is positive news as Ilkay Gundogan featured against Real Betis on Saturday despite concerns about his back issue.
Fermin Lopez, who was serving a league suspension over the weekend, is now available for selection, giving Xavi a robust squad for this upcoming match and a multitude of decisions to make.
It’s likely that Gundogan will return to the central midfield, and there’s a possibility of 16-year-old Lamine Yamal making a start alongside Felix and Lewandowski in the attacking lineup.
The defensive lineup should remain unchanged from Saturday, and Raphinha, who has seen his role diminished since his red card on the opening weekend of the new league season, is unlikely to be in contention for a starting spot in Tuesday’s European match.
Antwerp, on the other hand, will be missing Ortwin De Wolf, Davino Verhulst, Bjorn Engels, Sam Vines, and Kobe Corbanie due to injuries when they face Barcelona.
Vincent Janssen has been the team’s top scorer this season, with six goals in eight appearances, and he will once again be a key figure in the attacking third.
Michel-Ange Balikwisha and Arbnor Muja are expected to operate in advanced positions, while former Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet is set to start at left-back.