Preview: Sporting CP v Barcelona

Barcelona

Sporting CP and Barcelona will be looking to build on their wins on matchday 1 when they meet at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Group B on Wednesday.

UEFA Champions League

Matchday 2
27 September 2017
Kick-off: 20:45
Venue: Jose Alvalade Stadium

Referee: O. Hategan
Assistants: O. Sovre, S Gheorghe
Fourth official: R. Ghinguleac

Head-to-head summary:

TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Sporting 2 0 0 2
Barca 2 2 0 0

Previous encounter:

Sporting 2-5 Barcelona 26/11/08 (UEFA Champions League)

Sporting goalscorers: Veloso (65)’, Liedson (66′)
Barca goalscorers: Henry (14′), Pique (17′), Messi (50′), Caneira (OG, 67′), Bojan (Pen, 73′)

Players to watch:

Sporting striking duo Gelson Martins and Bas Dost have both been in prolific form this season, the Portuguese international with three goals already this season, while the Netherlands international has four. Midfielder Bruno Fernandes, however, has eclipsed both marksmen with five goals in seven matches and it’s likely that all three players will be closely looked at by the Barca technical team ahead of the game.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi seems to have found yet another gear in his game in what has been a sensational opening couple of months to the season during which time he has hit nine league goals in only six matches. He also fired a brace against last year’s runners-up, Juventus, in his side’s opening European match last week.

Team form and manager quotes:

Saturday’s 1-1 draw away to Moreirense was the first time in seven games Sporting have dropped points in the league this season, while they started their Champions League campaign with a 3-2 win in Greece against Olympiakos.

Lions manager Jorge Jesus was able to find positives from his side’s second-half showing against Moreirense.

“We dropped two points in what was a very competitive game,” he said. “In the first half one or two of our players were performing below their normal levels, which meant that we had less intensity.

“I don’t think the game against Barcelona acted as a [mental] weight; the fact we played poorly in the opening 45 minutes wasn’t to do with that. After the break, we were fighting again, and we could have gone 2-1 up.”

Ernesto Valverde’s team are also in superb form – they have won all seven games since two Spanish Super Cup defeats to Real Madrid in August, and have a perfect record in the domestic league after six rounds.

Speaking on Messi’s rare failure to score against Girona at the weekend, Valverde explained how the Argentine wizard is also able to create space for his team-mates, such as Luis Suarez, who did get on the scoresheet.

“Messi being man-marked is something that can happen. But it’s also certain that it will create openings for us to take advantage of,” he said.

“Messi came to speak to me after 10 minutes to ask me where I wanted him to leave the man who was marking him. He was calm and continued to help the team.

“A striker lives for goals,” Valverde said of Suarez. “And it’s obvious that the relationship Luis has with the goal is marvellous for us. His aggression inside the penalty box is impressive.”

Team news:

Neither club has any suspensions. The Portuguese side have a clean bill of health, while Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha, Adrian Ortola remain sidelined for the Catalans.

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