Barcelona are back in Champions League action on Tuesday, hosting Slavia Prague as they look to cement their stranglehold on Group F.
A win would put Barça in a very strong position to qualify for the knockout stages ahead of trickier games against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, who square off in the group’s other fixture.
The pressure is on manager Ernesto Valverde following a loss at Levante in La Liga on Saturday, even though the Catalan side had won their previous seven games in all competitions.
Barcelona Starting Lineup: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, De Jong; Messi, Griezmann, Dembele.
Slavia Prague Starting Lineup: Kolar, Coufal, Judela, Frydrych, Boril, Soucek, Traore, Masopust, Stanciu, Sevick, Olayinka.
Slavia Prague prop up the bottom of the group with a solitary point – picked up at San Siro on the opening matchday.
So, ahead of kick off, here are a few facts and stats to get you in the mood, courtesy of Opta…
You’ve Got No History
These teams have only ever faced each other once before, coming earlier this season.
Barcelona beat Slavia Prague 2-1 at the Sinobo Stadium in October, with Lionel Messi’s strike and Peter Olayinka’s own goal cancelling out Jan Boril’s equaliser.
Camp Nou’s a Fortress…
It’s not often that Barcelona lose games in the Champions League at Camp Nou.
The Catalan giants have been defeated just once in their last 55 UCL home games, winning 46 of those matches. Their current unbeaten run of 33 games is the longest in the competition.
Bayern Munich were the last team to win at Camp Nou in Europe’s elite club competition, back in May 2013 when they smashed their hosts 3-0 to complete a 7-0 aggregate victory.
…And Lionel Messi Is Barça’s General
You know that Lionel Messi kid? That guy everyone reckons can do the thing with the ball really well?
Turns out he’s either scored or assisted in each of his last 13 Champions League group stage starts at Camp Nou (22 goals, seven assists), which is a pretty good record as it goes.
The last time he failed to do so was against Celtic back in October 2012.
Gotta Start Somewhere
Poor ol’ Slavia Prague.
The Czech side are yet to win an away group stage game in the Champions League. For context, this is only the second time they have reached this stage of the competition, often dropping out in the qualifying and play-off rounds.
Slavia are winless in their last four away games previously – drawing and losing two apiece.
Best of Friends
“I wanna be your best friend
Don’t want you to be my girl
I wanna be your best friend
Don’t want you to be my
I don’t want you to be my…”
Those are some lyrics from the song ‘Best of Friends’ by Palma Violets.
And that’s what Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets are. Best buddies. Probably.
Barça have never lost a Champions League match at Camp Nou when both Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi have started (W33 D5 L0), while Busquets is unbeaten in his last 45 starts at Camp Nou in the competition (W39 D6 L0). Messi is unbeaten in his last 43 (W38 D5 L0).
They’re both in the squad for Tuesday’s game.
Gegenpressing, But in Czech
If there’s a strength in Slavia Prague’s game that Barcelona ought to be aware of, it’s their pressing from the front.
They’ve regained possession in the final third on 32 occasions across the opening three matchdays – at least three more times than any other side in the competition this season (Red Bull Salzburg and Manchester City, 29 each).
Ernesto Valverde’s side may be able to play through Slavia’s pressing, but it should make for entertaining viewing regardless.