Barcelona have welcomed Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, and Sergi Roberto back to their matchday squad for Wednesday’s important Champions League group stage fixture at Benfica.
De Jong returns after serving a one-game ban that ruled him out of Sunday’s La Liga win over Levante at the Camp Nou. Roberto missed the game through illness but has been passed fit along with Pedri who has recovered from a thigh injury.
The three midfielders are part of a 22-man travelling squad that will fly out to Portugal for the match. Barcelona are still without injured attackers Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero, and Martin Braithwaite. Left-back Jordi Alba is also still sidelined with a hamstring injury but has returned to first-team training.
Barcelona head to Benfica in need of a win after opening up their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou. Benfica played out a goalless draw in their first group-stage fixture.
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Koeman Discusses Barcelona Team
Ronald Koeman’s side will face Benfica with renewed confidence after a comprehensive 3-0 win over Levante on Sunday in La Liga. The Dutchman was asked at a pre-match press conference if he would keep faith with the same starting XI on Wednesday but hinted at changes.
“I think the most important thing is to plan the match,” he told reporters. “You have to look at the opposition and the youngsters. Playing five matches in 12 days is a lot for any player so we have to look where the team is physically fresher and plan the match to get the best result.”
Koeman started Sergio Busquets along with youngsters Nico Gonzalez and Gavi in midfield against Levante, but it seems certain at least one will drop out with De Jong available once again.
Roberto is also an option to start the game, but the Barcelona boss is not expected to risk starting fit-again Pedri, according to Javi Miguel at Diario AS.
Barcelona Expecting ‘Complicated Match’
The Barcelona boss has also admitted he’s expecting a tough match against Benfica who has won all seven league matches so far in 2021-22, scoring 19 goals along the way and conceding just four times.
“We can expect a complicated match. I know the atmosphere they can generate there and the strength they have at home,” he added. “I don’t think they are a team who are open a lot and leave much space. The Portuguese mentality is to control the match and have a strong defense with talented players up front. I think that’s what we can expect.”
Koeman is facing another big week in charge of Barcelona with a win needed in Portugal to get the team’s Champions League campaign up and running ahead of a double-header with Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kiev.
The Dutchman may also have one eye on Saturday’s crunch La Liga meeting with Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. The Catalan giants have not enjoyed the best start to the season but remain unbeaten and can leapfrog the defending champions in the table with a win.