Leo Messi before Wednesday's battering by Bayern Munich
Neymar, Barcelona’s star signing, is still in on his holiday. So is the side’s Spanish international contingent, a fairly numerous bunch, let’s be honest.
The new boss has yet to take a training session, and those footballers who are present and correct have only been back in action for about 10 days. So what better time to play a friendly against Bayern Munich, the titanic, Teutonic team that dished out a monumental walloping last season, on two occasions, in the Champions League.
Here are some key scraps that a scratch Barca side must win if the team are not to receive another incredibly bad result in Bavaria.
Jerome Boateng vs. Cristian Tello
Neither the Barca defence nor the midfield are looking too hot, so a big performance from Cristian Tello is needed against a fine full-back. This is especially the case for the young Spaniard who knows that Neymar’s highly anticipated arrival is just around the corner. The plucky Brazilian is expected to push Tello hard for his place in Barcelona’s starting lineup next season, so the forward needs a big day out against Bayern.
That is all nonsense, of course. Tello could score 50 goals in the Allianz Arena and still see about seven minutes of action in the new campaign.
Neymar cost about a billion dollars and has a fancy haircut. Tello didn’t and doesn’t.
Daniel Van Buyten and Diego Contento vs. Leo Messi
As per the norm with the Argentinean maestro, it will be two centre-backs against Messi in a supposedly one-on-one battle.
To make a tough task even harder, the Bayern back line will be facing a particularly sparky and animated striker on Wednesday evening. After all, Messi has now got the manager of his own personal choosing at the Camp Nou when the party arrives back in the Catalan capital after the game. “I have no doubt Messi spoke to the club’s board,” admitted Gerardo Martino, the new Barça boss in his farewell press conference in Argentina.
The ruffled-haired, boy band-esque Roberto has been boosted from the "B" team to be the new Thiago. Expect a stroppy transfer request in two years time, then, and an unsuccessful bid by Manchester United for good measure.
Roberto is going to want to pull off some playmaking tricks to show Barca that the club did not need Thiago anyway. The new Bayern Munich footballer will be hoping to run the German midfield and prove the complete opposite to his former club.
Thomas Muller vs. Marc Bartra
A curious battle at the back for Barcelona. Pep Guardiola played Muller as a false nine in the 5-1 weekend win against Borussia Monchengladbach. Barcelona are forced to play Bartra at centre-back with Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets still on holiday and Carles Puyol injured.
This leaves the situation when the home team have a striker who is not all that familiar and adept in playing in his position. It is the same scenario for Barcelona, too, although different circumstances in that Bartra is an actual defender, he's just not that good.
One innovation Guardiola has undertaken at Barca is to push Lahm a little further up the field to do some rampaging damage. The suspicion is that Alex Song could well be the figure to track the runs and movements of the dynamic defender.
There is only going to be one winner in that scrap, and he will not be using the accusative, dative and genetive clauses in his verbal communication on the pitch.