Player Features

Barcelona down 8 first-team players for final UCL group game

Barcelona will be without eight first-team players for Wednesday’s final Champions League group stage fixture against Antwerp in Belgium.

Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, Ilkay Gündogan and Ronald Araújo will all be rested for the match with qualification to the round of 16 already guaranteed.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

The decision comes after Sunday’s shock 4-2 defeat at home against surprise LaLiga leaders Girona, with coach Xavi Hernández opting to prioritise Saturday’s league game at Valencia.

Barça will also be missing Marc-André ter Stegen, Marcos Alonso, Iñigo Martínez and Gavi through injury.

In their place, Xavi has called up eight academy players. Defenders Hector Fort and Pau Cubarsí have both been named in the squad along with midfielders Marc Casadó and Aleix Garrido and forwards Ángel Alarcón and Marc Guiu, who scored on his first-team debut in October.

Goalkeepers Ander Astralaga and Diego Kochen will also make the trip. Both have been regulars in the squad since Ter Stegen’s injury, with Kochen a youth international with the United States.

Barça’s win over Porto two weeks ago ensured their place in the Champions League round of 16 for the first time since 2021.

The Spanish champions have yet to wrap up top spot, but it would take a defeat to Antwerp, a Shakhtar Donetsk win in Porto and a seven goal swing for them to not progress as group winners.

Domestically, Xavi’s side fell seven points behind leaders Girona on Sunday as they lost for just the second time in LaLiga this season, but the Barça coach insisted the performance was not as bad as the result suggested.

“It is a disastrous result, but the performance was not disastrous,” Xavi told in a news conference after the defeat.

“It’s a big blow because we were hoping to get back within two points of the leaders.

“This is the reality. It’s a Barça side in construction. These things happen when you are building, taking a step back to hopefully take two forward.

“Today, things didn’t come off for us, but on another day they could have. We can’t have any doubts. It was not a bad performance. Last year we also faced setbacks, but we went on to win two trophies.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button