FC Barcelona are set to complete their preseason preparation by hosting the Joan Gamper Trophy against Mexican side Club Leon. It's another chance for new manager Luis Enrique to put his remodelled squad through its paces.
Enrique is a Gamper Trophy veteran. He played in and won seven editions of the preseason showpiece, per FCBarcelona.com. Of course, now he won't be playing, but acting as the team's touchline general.
Luis Suarez will play some minutes in the Gamper tomorrow.
During two training sessions he's already shown he is really talented. He looks like the player we were looking for.
But Suarez won't be the only headline-grabbing star to make an appearance. The ex-Liverpool talisman will be joined by fellow mercurial forwards Neymar Jr. and Lionel Messi, according to Arron Duckling of BarcaBlaugranes.com.
Before delving into a preview of the game, here's the full schedule information:
|2014 Gamper Trophy: Date, Time, TV and Streaming Details|
|Monday, August 18||7.30 p.m. BST / 2.30 p.m. ET||Sky Sports 5||Sky Go, Now TV|
Will Suarez, Messi and Neymar Be on the Field Together?
This is the key question many fans will be curious about. They will be anxious to know what a three-pronged attack featuring Messi, Suarez and Neymar will look like and how it might eventually work for the club this season.
In terms of how they might line up, Messi will likely keep the central position. That's where he's happiest, evidenced by some disgruntled displays on the right last season under Tata Martino.
Of course, many would argue that the middle is where Suarez does his best work. However, the truth is the Uruguayan is a real live wire, most dangerous when he's buzzing in and out of different spaces.
Suarez can attack from either flank, or even act as a No. 10, supporting a central player. The problem Enrique has is that all three of his top attackers are free spirits.
The question is, can he integrate three headstrong roamers into some sort of tactical structure without removing what they do best?
Don't expect a definitive answer from the Gamper Trophy, even if all three do feature together. This is likely to be a season-long process.
In fact, it's more probable that Enrique will use this game to share playing time between his star forwards in a bid to get them up to speed for the new campaign.
Deserved Tribute Planned for Rafa Marquez
Barca are planning to pay tribute to former dependable defender Rafa Marquez, per FCBarcelona.com:
Márquez was originally due to appear in the visiting team, Club León, but just a few days ago it was announced that he’s returning to Europe to play for Hellas Verona Italy.
But he will still be coming to the Camp Nou, where FC Barcelona has a special tribute prepared for a player who served the club so well, helping it to two Champions Leagues, one European Super Cup, four Ligas, three Spanish Super Cups, one Spanish Cup and the Clubs World Cup.
It's an appropriate act and a deserved gesture for a player once key to one of Barcelona's best teams. The 2005-06 vintage dominated La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. Marquez was a vital figure alongside Carles Puyol at the heart of an uncompromising defence.
As much as Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho's almost impossible brilliance inspired manager Frank Rijkaard's team, the stingy Puyol-Marquez defence was just as significant.
The bruising duo subjected Arsenal striker Thierry Henry to some rough treatment during a 2-1 win in the Champions League final. It was the highlight of Marquez's time at Barca. It's only right the club honours the distinguished Mexican international.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo Will be Under Scrutiny
Former Real Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is set to succeed Victor Valdes as Barca's primary choice between the sticks, per ESPN FC. That follows a report from FCBarcelona.com that fellow incoming 'keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has sustained an injury.
That's going to put Chilean international Bravo under scrutiny. Replacing Valdes will be no easy task for the agile 31-year-old. Valdes was often overlooked among the plethora of mega-stars who played for Barcelona during his time with the club.
But the underrated 'keeper made some critical saves throughout his Barca career. Bravo needs to use his veteran savvy to be just as dependable in key moments.
Unfortunately, the Chilean hasn't experienced the best start to life at his new club. He conceded a comical goal in a friendly against Serie A side Napoli, per Ramiro Aldunate, via the English edition of Marca:
Barça slumped to their first pre-season defeat against Napoli in Geneva after debutant Claudio Bravo botched a routine save from Blerim Dzemaili's strike, fanning the flames of the debate over who should start in goal for the 'Azulgranas'. It looks like Real Madrid aren't the only Spanish giants with serious question marks over the no. 1 spot.
Napoli's goal came against the run of play, when Džemaili let fly from the edge of the box and Bravo somehow allowed the strike to slip through his fingers.
Bravo had previously made some very impressive saves, but they were balanced out by his costly gaffe. No team wants an erratic goalie, especially a club expected to win the game's top prizes every season.
Beginning with the Gamper Trophy, the focus on Bravo's form is about to intensify.
This game is usually used to showcase new signings and the state of the squad. Barca have been active this summer, and newbies such as Suarez, Bravo and midfielder Ivan Rakitic will all be eager to make positive first impressions.
How Suarez fits in will be the most intriguing storyline to watch. He is the key to the Enrique-led new era. If the manager's new buys shine, more will believe this rebuilt squad can wrest the La Liga title away from Atletico Madrid.
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