Ronald Koeman has named a 23-man squad for Barcelona’s final Champions League group game against Juventus at the Camp Nou. There’s a surprise return for defender Samuel Umtiti who is called up for the first time in 161 days after recovering from knee problems.
Umtiti was a key player for Barca before being plagued by knee trouble after helping France claim the 2018 World Cup in Russia. His return will be a boost to Koeman but question marks remain over whether he can stay fit and return to his best level.
Captain Lionel Messi is back in the squad after being rested for Barca’s last two Champions League matches against Ferencvaros, and Dynamo Kiev. Youngsters Konrad de la Fuente, Oscar Mingueza, and Inaki Pena also make the list.
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Barca head into the match needing only to avoid a heavy defeat to finish top of Group G. They lead Juventus by three points after winning all five group games so far in 2020-21 and beat the Serie A champions 2-0 in Turin in the reverse fixture. The top two in the group progress to Friday’s Round of 16 draw.
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Juventus Boss Talks Messi
Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo spoke about Messi ahead of the game in his news conference and offered his view on the Argentine’s current situation at the club. Messi shocked Barca by asking to leave over the summer, and although he has stayed the club has endured a dismal start to their La Liga campaign.
Pirlo doesn’t think Messi is in decline but speculated that off-field issues may be affecting his performances, as reported by Marca.
Messi is at a special moment in his life, not in his career, because he had a problem this summer. [It’s about] whether he would stay at Barcelona or not. But during games he has always shown his value. More than a football [issue], he probably has a psychological problem, but I don’t want to go into it, as it has nothing to do with us. Messi is a phenomenon and he has shown it.
Juventus will need no reminding that Messi scored a penalty and assisted a fine goal for Ousmane Dembele when the two sides met in October in Turin.
Home Comforts for Barca
Barcelona’s inconsistent form makes Tuesday’s tie difficult to predict, although it’s worth remembering the Catalan giants have not lost at home in the Champions League since 2013.
The fixture against Juventus is the first of four straight matches at the Camp Nou for Barcelona. Levante follow on Sunday in La Liga with Real Sociedad and Valencia the next visitors.
The home games offer Barca the opportunity to get their season back on track after a dismal defeat at newly-promoted Cadiz on Saturday. Koeman will know his side can’t afford to drop many more points in La Liga, and a win over Juventus would provide his team with a much-needed confidence boost.
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