Football’s premier club competition the Champions League kicks off for the season this week, and FC Barcelona’s search for a first title win since 2015 begins at home against PSV Eindhoven.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have been drawn in a relatively difficult Group B alongside Tottenham Hotspur of England, Inter of Italy and PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands. The first test for the Catalan club is arguably the easiest of the three opponents with PSV having qualified for the tournament by defeating BATE Borisov 6-2 on aggregate over the two legs.
Lionel Messi’s main focus this season appears to be the Champions League and he has made it abundantly clear that he would very much like to win it this year. Addressing the fans at the Camp Nou at the beginning of the season, here’s what the little magician had to say:
“Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League. We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that trophy back to Camp Nou.”
There’s no doubt that Messi has a great supporting cast this season as was very evident on the weekend in the team’s come from behind 2-1 win against Real Sociedad. The biggest addition to the club may have come last season with Ousmane Dembele.
The French World Cup winner has already scored the same amount of goals this season as he did in the whole of last season. His match winner against Sociedad was his fourth goal in five matches, whereas last season it took him 22 matches to reach the four goal mark.
Ousmane Dembele’s dashboard for the 2017/18 Champions League
Luis Suárez is slowly beginning to pick up some steam, having scored at least one goal in Barcelona’s last two La Liga matches. He’ll be looking to do better than his one goal in the Champions League last time around.
As for Messi himself, he, along with Cristiano Ronaldo are tied on a record 60 goals in the group stages of the Champions League. The little genius will be hoping that by the end of it all, he’ll be lifting the trophy with the big ears.
But there’s still a long way to go before that and one player who will have a big say on how far Barcelona go in the tournament is goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen. The German shot stopper has been outstanding for his club this season and if his excellent form continues and the rest of the team do their job, there’s no reason why they can’t be seen as favorites to lift the club’s sixth Champions League trophy (though the bookmakers currently favour Manchester City).
With Tottenham and Inter playing in the other match in the group, Messi’s men will be hoping that both teams drop points for them to be able to top the standings with a win on Tuesday. Barcelona remain undefeated this season and in all likelihood it is difficult to see PSV being the team which ends that streak.