FC Barcelona vs AS Roma | Wednesday 05 August | Camp Nou | 22:00
The annual Joan Gamper Trophy takes place on Wednesday evening as Barcelona finish their preseason preparations against invited AS Roma. The trophy is named in honour of Barcelona’s founding member, player, and later president and has been in existence since 1966. As expected, the home side have dominated the competition and since 1990 have only lost to Manchester City (2009) and Sampdoria (2012). Before the game, the Barcelona first team will be presented to the fans in what is always a very special moment at Camp Nou.
To Win (90mins)
FC Barcelona 7/20
As Roma 7/1
Barca’s four captains for the coming season have recently been announced, elected by anonymous player vote. Andres Iniesta will skipper the Catalans in 2015/16 with vice-captains Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets in close attendance. Javier Mascherano was elected into the Barcelona elite for the first time and will lead the side in the event of the absence of his fellow elder statesmen. However, this simply proves a distraction to the fact that Barcelona have lost three of their four preseason matches. The Catalans triumphed over LA Galaxy but fell to Manchester United, Chelsea (on penalties) and Fiorentina. Despite the throwaway nature of preseason fixtures, conceding an average of two goals a game never bodes well. Barcelona’s incredible success last term was based on their superhuman front three and the ability to contain opponents who would look to catch them on the break. The absence of two of the famed trio in preseason, Messi and Neymar forced to recover from a gruelling Copa America, has left Luis Suarez somewhat isolated. However, the controversial Argentine still managed to find the back of the net in three preseason fixtures despite some shoddy delivery. With Messi and Neymar both likely to feature in the Joan Gamper Trophy, the telepathic connection between the three will be reestablished. In truth, goals are the least of Barca’s worries. For a side that conceded only nineteen goals in the league last season, their defenders have shaped up woefully sub-par in preseason.
Roma have also made a bit of a meal of their preseason endeavours. The Italians have also lost three of four, succumbing to Manchester City, Sporting Lisbon and Gyirmot. They forced a draw against Real Madrid and won on penalties but it has been an altogether disappointing warm-up period. Roma have found themselves in hot water with Fiorentina as the club have seemingly paraded Mohammad Salah as their own before the necessary paperwork has been done to make the loan from Chelsea official. Fiorentina loaned the player last season and still have an active contract with him, despite his desperation to leave the Viola. Concerningly, Roma have yet to make solid moves in the transfer market to address glaring issues among the full backs and up front. The Italians have secured the services of Wojciech Szczesny on loan and look on the verge of signing Edin Dzeko from Manchester City. However, with their Serie A rivals already securing useful signatures it could prove to be a long season for Roma should they not move quickly.
VERDICT: FC Barcelona 7/20
With their star-studded triumvirate back on the pitch and close to 100 000 mental Spaniards behind the Catalans, it seems as good a time as any for Barcelona to express their intentions for the season ahead. It seems inconceivable that they can repeat last season’s exploits yet this Barcelona side is perhaps the best side I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. It will take a monumental effort to strip them of any trophies this season.