Barcelona’s pre-season campaign gathers pace on Saturday, with the Catalan giants heading to the Allianz Riviera to take on Ligue 1 side Nice.
Luis Enrique’s men have featured just once since the close of the domestic Spanish season, a 1-0 friendly victory over Recreativo Huelva, but their preparation for the 2014/15 season now steps up a few notches as their busy August schedule gets underway.
Nice is destination No. 1 on the club’s European tour, and they’ll be hoping to kick things off in the best possible fashion with a victory.
Venue: Allianz Riviera, Nice
Date: Saturday, August 2
Time: 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET
TV Info: beIN Sports 14 (U.S. only)
Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect (U.S. only)
Big Names Returning for Barca
When Barcelona scraped to a 1-0 victory against Recreativo Huelva in mid-July, they did so without the services of some of their brightest stars.
Ibrahim Afellay was the only household name in Enrique’s squad, but the players still succeeded in getting their new manager’s tenure off to the perfect start.
With the World Cup stars’ breaks now over, Enrique will likely name a much more potent force for the friendly with Nice on Saturday, with some potential debuts in the offing.
Both Jeremy Mathieu and Ivan Rakitic recently put pen to paper at the Nou Camp in the transfer window, and they both may be in line to don the famous shirt for the very first time in Nice.
Rakitic and Mathieu have been training with the squad at St. George’s Park in England, with the Croatian working closely alongside Spanish midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and the trio could get a run out together at the Allianz Riviera.
Xavi and Iniesta’s fellow countryman, Pedro, has also been working hard in England and was quick to praise the facilities after another strong day of training—per St. George’s Park:
The three Spanish pass masters combined to put Rakitic through his paces at St. George’s Park in the club’s traditional warm-up game of piggy-in-the-middle, with the Croatian praising how talented his new colleagues are—per The FA:
I wasn’t used to it, but I am determined to get better. At Barcelona the ball and possession is incredibly important—I know that and I realise I have more to do to get to the level where I am happy. It’s similar to how I found things with Sevilla—but the technical level is so much higher. We’re working very hard but I am enjoying it as much as I can.
Rakitic will likely get around 45 minutes under his belt to kick his Barcelona career off against Nice, who haven’t exactly enjoyed their summer so far.
As Soccerway revealed, Nice have lost all three of their pre-season matches so far, with the 5-1 loss to Norwich on Monday really rubbing salt into the wounds.
It’s unlikely to get any better for the club with Barcelona visiting, either, and though all of the Spanish giants’ best players won’t be in action, Enrique has more than enough firepower at his disposal to see off the French club’s challenge.
With the likes of Rakitic, Iniesta, Xavi and Pedro all likely to play some part, it could be another thrashing for Nice to stomach.
Prediction: Nice 0-4 Barcelona