Last season Barcelona’s Champions League campaign ended in the worst possible fashion, with a humiliating exit at the ands of Roma, losing 3-0 having won the first leg 5-2. The pain of that upset is still so fresh that Leo Messi, in his first speech as captain admitted that the defeat still hangs over the dressing room, and the squad are ready to do whatever it takes to bring the European Cup back to the Camp Nou.
Barcelona desperate to get off to a winning start against PSV
Now, this Tuesday, the Champions League returns to Barcelona’s ground with the visit of PSV. And nobody is expecting any surprises in the starting XI, with Valverde almost certain to put out his strongest side, all too aware that it’s vital to get off to a winning start in competitions such as these, and particularly when playing at home.
The link to Rome remains: Valverde will put out nine of the 11 players from that disastrous night; in one way it’s the perfect opportunity for them to redeem themselves. The two players who won't be there for Barcelona’s 2018/19 Champions League debut are Nelson Semedo and Andrés Iniesta. The first because Sergi Roberto has taken his place at right back and the second because he’s left the club, with Philippe Coutinho taking his place.
Coutinho expected to shine in Europe
The Brazilian has been at the Camp Nou since January 2018, but he will be making his European debut for the Catalan giants, as he was cup-tied having played in Europe for Liverpool. The most expensive player in the club’s history -160 million euros plus add-ons - is expected to play a major role in their European adventures.
Dembélé, the other recent major signing has already played in Europe for Barcelona, but only three times, due to his severe injury soon after joining the club. In total he played for 143 minutes in Europe, scoring one. He also came on for the last five minutes of return leg against Roma, but could do nothing to prevent the disaster occurring.
The team expected for Tuesday night then will be: Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba, Sergio Busquets, Rakitic, Coutinho, Messi, Luis Suárez and Dembélé.
And if it’s confirmed then it’ll be the fifth consecutive game - four in LaLiga and one in the Champions League - that Valverde has ignored the four new signings. The only competitive game that’s seen any of them in the starting line-up was the Spanish Super Cup, where Clément Lenglet and Arthur Melo were on the pitch at kick-off.