Barcelona welcome Belgian champions Antwerp to their slice of Catalonia in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday evening.
Mark van Bommel has worked miracles as manager of Antwerp, following up a shock league title with their first taste of elite continental football since they competed in the European Cup back in 1957.
Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez made 12 appearances alongside Van Bommel during the Dutchman’s single season as a player for the Catalan giants. The pair were on opposite sides of the 2010 World Cup final as Xavi’s Spain bested Van Bommel’s Netherlands.
Here’s the Barcelona XI that Xavi may deploy to get another one over his former teammate.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – While he may be imperious domestically, Ter Stegen has shipped 14 goals across his last seven appearances in European competition.
RB: Joao Cancelo – Despite leaving Manchester City on loan midway through their Champions League-winning campaign, Cancelo still racked up as many European assists for City last term as Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish combined.
CB: Jules Kounde – After Barcelona finally signed a natural right-back this summer, Kounde can take up his favoured centre-back position.
CB: Andreas Christensen – A Champions League winner with Chelsea, Christensen replaced the injured Thiago Silva in the first half of the final against City in 2021.
LB: Alejandro Balde – The former Espanyol academy player should feel at home during Barcelona’s temporary stay in the city’s Olympic Stadium, which used to be Espanyol’s home ground.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – The Dutch midfielder started off at the small club ASV Arkel before quickly moving on to – with respect – bigger establishments. De Jong’s father John, however, is Arkel’s all-time leading appearance maker.
CM: Oriol Romeu – The last time Romeu played Champions League football, he was wearing Chelsea‘s badge and had hair.
CM: Gavi – According to his youth team coach Manuel Basco: “Gavi’s always played with his laces untied.”
RW: Ferran Torres – Dubbed “the Shark” by Xavi, Torres has made a deadly start to the new season with three goals in 127 minutes.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have scored more Champions League goals than Lewandowski, incredibly.
LW: Joao Felix – Xavi was aware of Felix’s “greatness” after watching him train but Barcelona fans got to experience it themselves when the Atletico Madrid loanee marked his debut with a goal on the weekend.