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Goal's Aman Arora takes a look at Barcelona’s preseason fixtures as they look to reestablish their dominance in Europe next season following Bayern Munich’s success.

Spanish giants FC Barcelona returned from holiday on the 15th of July, weary yet disappointed from a rather unsuccessful campaign by their standards. Having wrapped up La Liga virtually in December, the Catalans would have hoped to do a lot better in the Champions League where they were demolished in the semi-final against eventual champions Bayern Munich.


Back to work since July 15th


They haven't won the Champions League since 2011, not to mention the two semi-final defeats in the last two seasons. Manager Tito Vilanova will hope to put his health issues behind him and enjoy a successful campaign.


Pre-Season Friendlies



I
Lechia Gdansk vs Barcelona

Date: Postponed

Venue: PGE Arena Gdansk

Kickoff: 20:30 LMT

            18:30 GMT

            00:00 IST (21st)

 

Barcelona play their first friendly against Polish side Lechia Gdansk. A local team, Lechia Gdansk got promoted back to the Polish top flight in 2008, after their stint in the 1950's. Having played in the Cup Winners Cup in the 1980s, the club have some experience of playing top level teams although they haven't been really successful as a club over the years. 

The game has been postponed following Barcelona president informing of Tito Vilanova's resignation as they will not travel to Poland.

About the opposition -

Lechia Gdansk play in the Polish first division, the Ekstraklasa. Having finished as Champions in the 2nd division in the 2007-2008 campaign, they got promoted to the top flight where they have remained ever since. Most notably, the club has attained success in the Polish Cup, which they won in 1983 and have twice appeared in the semi-final in last four seasons.

PGE Arena Gdansk, their home stadium with a capacity of 43,615, famously hosted four matches during Euro 2012 while also being the largest stadium in the Ekstraklasa.

 

II
Bayern Munich vs Barcelona

Date: 24 July, 2013

Venue: Allianz Arena

Kickoff: 20:30 LMT

            18:30 GMT 

            00:00 IST (25th)

 

Next up for the Bluagrana are Bayern Munich. Having lost 7-0 on aggregate when they last played them in the semi-final of the Champions League, Barcelona will certainly be eager to beat them. Former player and manager Pep Guardiola is now in charge at Munich and that will not help matters either.

The former Spanish international has recently launched a scathing attack on the club and its president Sandro Rossell, which might have raised the feeling of animosity among the players as well.  It will certainly be an intense game.

Neymar, for Barcelona and Mario Gotze for Bayern will grab most of the attention, provided the German recovers in time for the game after suffering a hamstring injury back in May. Thiago Alcantara’s move from Barcelona to Bayern, will also spice up the tie.


 

III
Valerenga vs Barcelona

Date: 27 July, 2013

Venue: Ullevaal Stadium

Kickoff: 19:00 LMT

            17:30 GMT

            23:00 IST

 

The next game should be an easy one for the Catalans with the Bohemians, as they are fondly called by their fans are in reality, no match for them. Valerenga ply their trade in the Norwegian Tippeligaen and have been involved in the Champions League and the Europa League consistently over the years.

About the opposition -

Founded in 1913, Valerenga play in the Ullevaal Stadium which has a capacity of 25,572. The club had a successful period before the conception of the National League when the won the Oslo Championships four times.

The end of the century though, was not a great period for the Bohemians, as it saw them get relegated to the second division twice in a period of 6 years. They did return to prominence in the early 2000's with one League title and two Norwegian Cups.

 
IV
Barcelona vs Santos

Date: 2 August, 2013

Venue: Camp Nou

Kickoff: 21:30 LMT

            19:30 GMT    

            01:00 IST (3rd)

 

FC Barcelona welcome Brazilian side Santos in the Joan Gamper Trophy. The competition is an annual one hosted by the Catalan club in honour of Joan Gamper, a former founding member, player and president of FC Barcelona. The competition initially had four teams participating with a third place play-off as well but since 1997, it has been cut down to just the one game.

The game will see Barcelona's recent acquisition Neymar face his former side. The Blaugrana signed the talented youngster for a reported €57 million in the summer.


 

V
Thailand vs Barcelona

Date: 8 August, 2013

Venue: Rajamangala National Stadium, Bangkok

Kickoff: 14:00 LMT

            07:00 GMT

            12:30 IST

 

Barcelona then travel to Thailand to play against their national team. Currently ranked 138 by FIFA, Thailand is one of the Asian countries where football has been enhancing its reputation in recent years.

About the opposition -

The "War Elephants" as they are fondly called have never qualified for the World Cup (also including the 2014 World Cup) and have been participating in tournaments like the Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games and ASEAN Football Championship.  

They have notably won the SEA Games and the AESAN Football Championship although their success has been limited in the last couple of years.

 

 

VI
Malaysia XI vs Barcelona

Date: 10 August, 2013

Venue: Rajamangala National Stadium, Bangkok

Kickoff: 14:45 LMT

            07:45 GMT

            13:15 IST

 

The last stop for Vilanova's side is in Kuala Lumpur where they face a Malysia XI side. The fixture has been touted as a crucial one for the country, with the game a part of the promotions of the "Visit Malaysia Year 2014" campaign, organized by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism.

About the opposition -

The Catalans will face a side consisting of the best players playing in the Malaysian League and managed by the national team manager Dato K Rajagopal. 


Barca
  Barcelona's Man to Watch - Neymar

 

Brazilian international Neymar will attract a lot of attention. A lot has been said of his ability to adapt to European football but having proven his worth on an international stage during the Confederations Cup, he should have the confidence to take on the challenge that awaits him at Barcelona.

His raw skill, pace and ability to run past defenders are his main strengths but considering the European game is faster and more physically challenging he will need to step it up and hold his own on the pitch. 

His versatility is also going to be of much importance to the Blaugrana in the coming years as it allows him to play on either flank or down the middle. Barcelona certainly invested their money well in one of the best young players around. 

What the Bench-warmers need to do...

With the club boasting plenty of options in forward and midfield areas, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have struggled for playing time. Song has been converted into a makeshift centre-back to make up for the Catalans' lack of depth in that area.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has been rather unfortunate with a spate of injuries that have kept him side-lined while Fabregas hasn’t played in his central midfield role often enough. The arrival of Neymar is also of concern to these players.

They will need to prove their worth by performing in the preseason games. This is the period where the manager keeps his options open for a change in personnel. The trio will have to show how crucial they can be to the squad and only then can they hope of claiming a starting berth in this illustrious squad.



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