Barça begin their defence of the Champions League tomorrow night with a tough game at AS Roma at the Olympic Stadium in Rome (Wednesday 8.45 pm). No team has ever won back-to-back Champions Leagues which makes this season’s competition even more desirable for Luis Enrique’s men.
Rome’s Olympic Stadium will bring back memories of Barça’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the 2009 Final. Leo Messi recently claimed his headed goal in that game was his favourite goal for Barça so it is fitting that he will return to the ground to make his 100th Champions League appearance tomorrow.
It will also be a return for Luis Enrique who, after beginning his coaching career with Barça B, got his first big job at Roma in the 2011/12 season when the Italian Club finished 7th in Serie A. The match will also be special for two Roma players with blaugrana pasts. Seydou Keita won fifteen trophies in his four seasons at Camp Nou between 2008 and 2012 and deserves our total respect for past services. Iago Falque, on the other hand, was a bright hope at La Masia from 2001 to 2008 when he moved to Juventus. Falque’s recent admission that he has always been a Real Madrid fan should break any sentimental ties we might have felt for him.
Roma will no doubt be much more competitive than seen in their 3-0 defeat in the Gamper match last month. They have started the league season with a 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona and two victories over Juventus and Frosinone. Head coach Rudi Garcia has been in charge at the club since 2013 and Roma have finshed in a creditable second place in the Italian league in both his first two seasons though on both occasions they finished a massive 17 points behind champions Juventus. This summer’s most important incorporation has been Edin Dzeko who has signed on loan from Manchester City, while another familiar face is that of Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny who has also gone on loan to the Italian club.
Barça are without Thomas Vermaelen, who has joined Dani Alves, Claudio Bravo and Douglas on the injured list, but Gerard Piqué, who has been unavailable due to suspension in La Liga, will almost certainly return to the team alongside Mascherano in defence. Midfielder Gerard Gumbau and goalkeeper José Suárez from Barça B have been brought into Luis Enrique’s 20-man squad which travelled this morning to the Italian capital.
Barça’s 20-man squad: Ter Stegen, Masip, José Suárez, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Bartra, Piqué, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba, Busquets, Gumbau, Rakitic, Iniesta, Rafinha, Messi, Luis Suárez, Sandro, Neymar, Munir,
Roma: Szczesny; Florenzi, Castan, Manolas, Digne; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Keita; Salah, Falque, Dzeko.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Prediction: Roma 0 Barça 2
Date: Wednesday 16 September 2015. Kick-off 8.45 pm CET