It’s that time of year ladies and gentlemen! The orchestral music that somehow manages to remind you of some of the best nights of your life and also some of the most crushing soul destroying. It’s time to find out our European fate. It’s the Champions League draw!
Did Barça get the group of death? No. Spurs, PSV and Inter Milan. Am I happy with this? Yep. It’s going to be tough obviously but it’s a good looking group. Is there even such a thing as a “group of death” anymore? Personally, I don’t think so. This year especially, the competition feels wide open.
So let’s break it down…
We will start with Spurs. The Gary Lineker derby. Our first meeting in the CL. We haven’t met Spurs in a competitive match since the 1982 Cup Winners Cup (yes, that was really a thing) semi-final. We went on to win the competition so let’s hope that’s a good omen. Having played each other in preseason in the US adds… well nothing realistically. Arthur scored an absolute screamer on debut but it was a friendly so does it really count? Spurs have started the Premier League season well, currently 2nd in the table and unbeaten. Pochettino is a great coach, being a very loyal Espanyol man adds a nice layer of rivalry. Last season, Spurs beat both Real Madrid and Dortmund very convincingly at Wembley in the group stages before getting sucker punched by Juventus and knocked out in the round of 16. In my humble opinion, the jewel in the Spurs crown is Christian Eriksen. To me, when I see him play, I see a future Barcelona midfielder. Looking forward to going back to Wembley, yes Spurs fans I know you have a new stadium but it’s not going to be ready is it? See you at Wembley.
PSV Eindhoven, Dutch champions by 4 points ahead of Ajax in last season’s Eredivisie, have started the season the same as Spurs and Barça, currently unbeaten with maximum points after 3 games. They qualified for this season’s CL via the playoffs beating BATE of Belarus 6-2 on aggregate. We haven’t played each other since the 1997/98 CL group stage, both matches ended 2-2 but they were the Van Gaal years so the less said the better about our European performances. The standout player for me Hirving Lozano, I thought he would have been snapped up by a bigger club by now. I think these could be more tricky games than we think.
And finally, Internazionale Milano who currently sit in 11th in Serie A having started the season poorly compared to our other group rivals. We haven’t met each other since the infamous semi-final of 2010. We all know what happened then, Mourinho’s team displaying one of the most negative performances I’ve seen at Camp Nou. I still can’t think of the disallowed Bojan goal without sobbing uncontrollably. What a miscarriage of justice. The standout talent for the Nerazzuri… Ivan Perišić and Mauro Icardi. They are very very dangerous on a good day.
So for me, Barça win the group with Spurs 2nd, Inter 3rd and PSV 4th. It’s always dangerous to make predictions so I’m expecting to be completely wrong. Will Valverde prioritise the CL? I don’t know. Lionel Messi seemed very enthusiastic about our CL push in his speech after the Gamper game against Boca Juniors. So the players seem to want the CL more than anything. Could we? Well, we’ve strengthened so that lack of depth which hurt us so much last season has been addressed but is it enough? In my opinion, no. I think we will be short yet again. There’s those pesky predictions again…
It would be absolutely remiss of me not to mention how the month of October now looks like it could be make or break in our season with away trips to Spurs in the CL, followed by a league match away at Valencia. After the International break a home game against Sevilla followed by Inter Milan at Camp Nou in the Champions League, then the big one, the home Clásico against Real Madrid and then to finish a Round of 32 Copa del Rey tie. It’s going to be an intense month.