Barcelona seem to be showing no signs of a hangover after Neymar’s acrimonious departure from the club, but the Catalans face a tough test when last year’s finalists Juventus come visiting on Tuesday night for their UEFA Champions league group-stage tie.
Who wins at the Nou Camp may just top the Group and La Blaugrana, topping the La Liga with three wins from three, know securing three points is top priority against the team that knocked them out of Europe last season.
The Bianconeri unsurprisingly have begun their Serie A title defence in imperious fashion, also clinching three wins from as many games to top the league.
However, the fact that the visitors are struggling with several injuries makes Barcelona slight favourites to edge the tie on their home turf.
Lionel Messi is yet to sign a contract extension but the Argentine maestro has proved he’s focused as ever with a blistering start to the 2017-18 season.
Despite being outclassed by arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona, under new manager Ernesto Valverde, have rebounded with three wins on the trot to once again become the team to beat.
Club-record signing Ousmane Dembele made his debut during their 5-0 thumping of Espanyol on the weekend and is in line to make his first start since his €105 million move.
Along with Luis Suarez and club icon Messi, the young Frenchman will look to find a potent attacking triumvirate like no other and the steely Bianconeri defence will truly test their mettle on Tuesday.
Talking Corner: “I’m very happy, it was strange to be alongside the best in the world. It was a good victory and I felt a lot of emotions. I’ve fulfilled a dream-Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele (BeIN Sports via Sport English)
Injury concerns: Rafinha (knee), Arda Turan (back) and Sergi Roberto (knee).
Suspension Alert: None
Paulo Dybala’s meteoric rise seems to have no signs of stopping but the silky 23-year-old will be a marked man at the Nou Camp. After wowing Europe with his displays last season, he is no longer an unknown entity.
Dybala’s strike partner, Gonzalo Higuain, has begun the season in rich goalscoring form and the away side will need the experienced Argentine to be on his toes as they bid to create another upset.
Sami Khedira is a doubt for their trip to Spain and without the former Real Madrid man, the likes of Blaise Matuidi and Mirajlem Pjanic will have to pick up the slack in the middle of the pitch.
With Giorgio Chiellini a doubt as well, Massimiliano Allegri might be forced to shuffle his defence and their three-man backline will have to bring their A-game if Messi and Co are to be kept quiet.
Talking Corner: It’s a game of great prestige. It will be a tough contest, where we want to send a strong signal of intent to show everyone that this year too we want to progress to the competition’s latter stages—Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli (www.juventus.com)
Injury concerns: Marko Pjaca (knee), Alex Sandro (flu), Rodrigo Bentacur (knee) Claudi Marchisio (knee), Giorgio Chiellini (calf, illness), Mario Mandzukic (knock and Sami Khedira (knee).
Suspension Alert: Juan Cuadrado