Fc Barcelona will face Viktoria Plzen in the final game of the group stages of the UEFA Champions League 2022 and it will also be their final outing in the competition regardless of the result of this match.
Date: Tuesday, 1st November 2022
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Venue: Stadion Mesta Plzne (Doosan Arena)
Time: 21:00 CEST
Referee: Radu Marian Petrescu
Heading into the final clash of the UEFA Champions League group stage, it has become quite evident at this point that neither of the two teams partaking in this match have much to gain by winning in an objective sense. Fc Barcelona have already been demoted to the UEFA Europa League by virtue of securing third place in their group, whereas Viktoria Plzen have been eliminated from European competition entirely as they will finish dead last in their group regardless of the outcome of this game. However, both teams have other objectives they may want to achieve through winning this game.
In the case of the Catalans, a victory here would add to ending the Champions League journey on a positive note, as well as provide some semblance of optimism going forward into the next round of La Liga games. Moreover, this game in particular provides Xavi the chance to rest some key players whilst testing out the mettle of the rest of his squad. This could include players that seldom gain game time as well as allow some substitutes to get starting minutes.
A key person missing from the squad list was Robert Lewandowski himself, without whom the goals have been lacking from the other players within the team. This match provides the perfect opportunity to see this team’s capabilities without the presence of an already established world class striker, as well as allow the younger players the chance to take charge of the team. There may be significant rotation at display too given the meagre consequences of this game.
For the home side from Czech Republic, a win against a visiting European giant in Plzen’s own background could fire up their fans’ optimism and the team’s own confidence to a new height. This game allows them to play with nothing to lose, as they themselves are the underdogs and will potentially throw whatever firepower they have to get this win for the sake of their own confidence rather than for points.
Form wise, Fc Barcelona come into this game having just beaten Valencia away from home in stoppage time thanks to a late winner by Lewandowski himself, a win that potentially provides the team with more belief and endurance going forward. The Catalans have 3 wins from their last 5 games, with the remaining 2 games having been losses to Real Madrid and Bayern respectively.
Viktoria Plzen, on the other hand, have the exact same number of wins from their last 5 games, having won 3 and having lost 2. Their most recent loss came against Inter Milan.
Despite the absence of Lewandowski, this is a game the Catalans will be expected to win
regardless of venue. Vamos.
Goalkeeper: Inaki Pena
A rare start for the backup goalkeeper is expected in this game, given that it’s a match with no points or qualification at stake, so expect Ter Stegen to be given rest while Inaki Pena gets a chance to show his own ability.
Centre-back: Gerard Pique
Given that neither Jules Kounde nor Eric Garcia finished the previous game fully fit and had
discomfort, it seems improbable that they start this game and Xavi may opt to start a pairing that hasn’t seen regular game time instead. Pique falls right into that category.
Centre-back: Marcos Alonso
The other backup center-back that hasn’t seen as many minutes as the starting ones, this game could be used to test a more senior backline for Barcelona with Pique and Alonso forming the middle of it.
Right-back: Hector Bellerin
Currently the only fit natural right back, this game should allow Bellerin to get more into his groove and start to gel with the rest of his teammates better with game time.
Left-back: Alejandro Balde
Reports suggesting he is now trusted as the primary left-back, Balde should definitely be given more game time to find his footing on a regular basis and this game might just be a start.
CDM: Frenkie De Jong
Could be a great opportunity to start Frenkie De Jong once more in the pivot role and increase his familiarity with the role and the expectations that come with it in a game with not much consequence.
Having been on the bench for much of this season, Frank Kessie is undeniably a player with
more quality than he has been able to showcase in the limited time he has been given. Could be given just what he needs against Viktoria Plzen.
Rested against Bayern and Valencia, Gavi looks set to start this game and find his way back
into the starting eleven moving forward this season as well.
Left-Winger: Ansu Fati
Having just had his birthday, the now 20 year old wonderkid from La Masia will get the chance to mark his first game since becoming a vicenarian with a bang should he perform.
Centre-forward: Ferran Torres
With Robert Lewandowski rested, and multiple reports suggesting it to be Ferran Torres who replaces him in the starting eleven, the Spaniard will be given the chance to show how well he fares when the bulk of the scoring responsibilities are put on his shoulders.
Normally playing second fiddle to the more trusted Dembele, this game should allow Raphinha to play with more freedom and showcase exactly why Barcelona fans should have hope in the Brazilian going forward into the season.
Goalkeeper: Inaki Pena
Defenders: Bellerin, Pique, Alonso, Balde
Midfielders: Kessie, De Jong, Gavi
Forwards: Raphinha, Torres, Fati