Competition Focus

Barcelona, Arsenal headline Soccer Champions Tour at SoFi Stadium – Orange County Register

FC Barcelona, with Robert Lewandowski, left, and Arsenal FC, with Martin Odegaard, right, will square off in a Soccer Champions Tour match Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at SoFi Stadium. (Photos by The Associated Press)

Two of the biggest European soccer clubs will face off in an international friendly match Wednesday just before the teams compete in their respective seasons.

FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC will headline the Soccer Champions Tour on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at SoFi Stadium. Six of the biggest European soccer clubs – Arsenal, FC Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan – comprise the teams competing in the tour, which takes place in various cities across the country.

“It’ll be a good game,” Barcelona left back Alejandro Balde said on Monday. “An Arsenal-Barca match is like one in the Champions League and everyone is excited to play the first game and see how we feel.”

The match between Arsenal and Barcelona is the third scheduled match of the Soccer Champions Tour. Barcelona was supposed to play in the first match of the tour on Saturday, but the team announced that players on the team contracted viral gastroenteritis, leading to the match’s cancellation.

Arsenal has already been playing stateside as it has competed in two friendlies. Arsenal defeated the MLS All-Stars, 5-0, on Thursday in Washington, D.C., and lost to Manchester United, 2-0, on Saturday in New Jersey.

Arsenal will be without midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko, who did not join the club for its U.S. tour because of a calf injury sustained last season. Zinchenko’s absence has given other Arsenal backers chances to earn playing time before the team heads into Premier League play.

Kieran Tierney, 26, has stepped into a more prominent role on Arsenal’s backline along with others like Jurrien Timber, which led to more competition in the lineup.

“(Kieran) has been really good,” Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta said. “This is where we want to create competition in the team and raise the level of each individual. That’s going to be a huge benefit for the team to get to another level.”

Arsenal came in second place in the Premier League last season, falling five points behind eventual Premier League champions Manchester City. Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus said that in order for Arsenal to win the Premier League, they will have to go through Manchester City.

“Even before, I was feeling like the gap (between Manchester City and Arsenal) was not that big,” Jesus said. “Obviously they are together for years and this made a difference. They have been winning for years, so that makes a difference also.”

Wednesday’s match will be Barcelona’s first match of the 2023-2024 season.

It is still relatively unknown which players Barcelona will put on the field Wednesday, but the players are confident the squad has enough to field a competitive match.

“I feel a lot better, the team is doing well,” Balde said.

The teams will meet for the eighth time since Barcelona defeated Arsenal in the UEFA Championship in 2006. Arsenal has just one victory in that time period and has scored just 11 goals to FC Barcelona’s 22.

FC Barcelona vs. Arsenal FC

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: SoFi Stadium

How to watch: ESPN+

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