Barcelona travel to Lisbon this evening to do battle with Benfica in the second round of the group stage of the Champions League. Ronald Koeman’s men took a 3-0 beating from Bayern Munich at Camp Nou in the first round, and will be keen to get back to winning ways. Benfica drew 0-0 with Dynamo Kyiv in their opener.
Barcelona sit sixth in La Liga and have endured a mixed start to the season. They’ve struggled to kickstart their new era, having lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain. They did, however, beat Levante 3-0 at the weekend and welcomed back Ansu Fati, who’d missed 323 days through injury. Benfica are top of the Primeira Liga, and have won seven out of seven league games.
As well as on-field troubles, Barcelona have been wrought with uncertainly off the pitch, too. Koeman is at war with his president, Joan Laporta, with the pair’s relationship visibly worn. The Dutchman has been keen to play down expectations at Camp Nou this season, a line of rhetoric that doesn’t sit well with Laporta.
“It’s a very important game,” Laporta said from Lisbon about the Benfica clash in comments carried by Marca. “We have to go out to win. We need our first three points in the Champions League to return to where we should be; first place in the group. Benfica, we know, aren’t an easy opponent. They’ve won seven games in a row. But we have a team that’s progressing more and more and we’re confident that we’ll win today.”
Laporta was also clear about the importance of Barcelona’s youth system to the club’s identity. “La Masia is the way and the inalienable style of play,” he continued. “This is a genuine and recognisable style which no other club in the world has. If we make it compatible with high-performance sporting techniques we put ourselves on another level. That way we will be unbeatable.”