Fresh from a decisive league victory over Valencia at the weekend, FC Barcelona look to bounce back from their recent stalemate in the Russian steppe with a win over group leaders FC Copenhagen in Wednesday night’s European encounter at the Camp Nou. Group D leaders Copenhagen, two points clear at the top of the table after defeating both Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, look ready to test the Catalan’s European pedigree in what could turn out to be a pivotal battle for the group. Both teams look set to field their first-choice XI, and the result should be an entertaining encounter.
A disappointing draw in Kazan has left the Catalans in second place with four points from two games played, and they will no-doubt be looking to set the tone for the rest of the group stage with a home victory. Currently sitting in third place in the Spanish league table, Guardiola’s men should view this game not just as a critical test of their European ambitions, but of their entire season. A win would see the Blaugrana settle into first place with three games left in the group, and perhaps give them the breathing room to focus on what has become one of the closest league battles in recent memory.
FC Barcelona defender Gerrard Piqué, in an interview given to Spanish daily Sport, emphasized the importance of early wins in the Champions League group stage. “In the league an error can be rectified because the season is long, but it’s difficult to turn around a slip-up at home in the Champions League.” Despite previous anonymity on the European stage, Barcelona will be taking the Danes quite seriously according to the Catalan defender. “Copenhagen have won both their games and this tells you everything. It may seem that they aren’t as strong as Valencia, but if they’ve beaten opponents such as Rubin and Panathinaikos, we cannot be over-confident.”
Match prediction: With a high-flying start to the group, having scored three and conceded none in two European wins, FC Copenhagen will surely go into the match with a degree of confidence seldom present in teams traveling to the Camp Nou. A team made up largely of Danish nationals, with the requisite journeyman Brazilian in their midst, should present an interesting matchup for the Catalan giants. That being said, few teams have been able to cope with the attacking menace and dominance in possession that have become trademarks of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola. Copenhagen would be wise to employ the tactics of Valencia used on the weekend, attempting to retain possession and attack, rather than sit back and try to absorb wave after wave of Xavi-orchestrated attacks. A full strength Barcelona side must not fall prey to the comfortability of dominant possession, as recent games (including that against Rubin Kazan) has shown that the Catalans can still be vulnerable on the counter attack. The key against Copenhagen is an early goal, and once that initial goal comes, expect an entertaining evening.
A 3-1 win for FC Barcelona.