Pep Guardiola returned to the Camp Nou on Wednesday as Premier League champions Manchester City face Barcelona in a friendly match, despite the two teams kicking off the 2022-23 seasons weeks ago.
City will play three games in defense of the title that began on August 7, after losing to Liverpool at Wembley in the Community Shield eight days ago on July 30, while Barcelona will play their third game of the season on Sunday against Real Valladolid (Streaming live at 1:30 PM ET on ESPN+ in the US). Prior to that, both clubs traveled to the United States for pre-season tours, holding six matches between them across the Atlantic last month.
But they still find time in their schedules to play in Wednesday’s game, a noble cause close to Guardiola’s heart as well as all those involved in Barcelona.
Much has changed since City last played at Barcelona, with Guardiola winning the Champions League twice out of 14 titles during his four glorious years in charge of the team from 2008-2012. On that occasion, in 2016, Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick and Neymar He added a fourth late after the City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo He was sent off early in the second half in the Champions League group stage match.
The clubs’ paths have gone in opposite directions since then. City have done even better under former Barcelona coach Guardiola, winning the Premier League in four of the past five seasons, although European success is still far from them.
Meanwhile, Barcelona have lost Messi and Neymar, accumulated debts of more than one billion euros, fallen out of Europe’s top division, and won the King’s Cup only once in the past three seasons. There is hope, however, that, after a summer of more spending, they will be ready to reassert themselves as one of the best teams on the continent – especially under coach Xavi Hernandez, under the auspices of Guardiola, who will face his mentor in training. First time.
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Why Barcelona and Man City play this match?
This friendly match was originally scheduled to take place last year, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Attendance could have been a maximum of 30,000, per local government restrictions at the time, and the clubs wanted the match to be played in a full stadium – the Camp Nou seats nearly 100,000.
This is because the money raised from the game will go towards research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the name of Juan Carlos Onzo, who was diagnosed with the condition at the beginning of 2020.
Barcelona and City were looking for a pre-season date, but summer tours abroad took precedence and it proved impossible to find a working day for both teams. Therefore, they came up with a slightly unusual decision to hold the match on Wednesday, even though both teams have already started their domestic seasons.
Who is Juan Carlos Onzo?
Unzue is a goalkeeper turned coach who has spent most of his career in Seville. He also has strong links with Barcelona, where he was the club’s reserve goalkeeper between 1988 and 1990, although as a coach he is most famous at the Camp Nou. He became the goalkeeper coach for Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard after retirement and maintained that position under Guardiola.
He later tried his luck as coach at Numancia and Racing Santander before becoming Luis Enrique’s assistant at Celta Vigo in 2013. He followed Luis Enrique to Barcelona a year later, where they won the treble in 2015.
After periods in charge of Celta and Girona, he was diagnosed with ALS in 2020, the most common form of motor neuron disease.
Unzue, who is rarely seen without a smile and is now in a wheelchair, was raising money to fund ALS research, and Barcelona wanted him to play a fundraising role. City, coached by Unzo’s friend Guardiola, were an obvious opponent and also a charming opponent in terms of interest.
Why is Barcelona the only club that regularly plays friendlies during the season?
Barcelona have developed a habit of playing friendlies in bad times, although they usually benefit their coffers rather than raising money for charity.
They finished last season with a trip to Australia to play for the All-League A-League team in Sydney. that match It was worth 5 million euros for the Catalan club.
In December 2021, they traveled to Saudi Arabia to face Napoli in the Diego Maradona Cup, following the death of the Argentine striker the previous year. And two clubs he has spent more time with than Barcelona, Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors, have not received an invitation. It was another tool of money for the Catalan club.
In 2018, just before the end of the season, Barcelona also organized a trip to South Africa to play Mamelodi Sundowns. Many still blame this match for costing Ernesto Valverde’s side an unbeaten season. Just three days earlier, they lost their penultimate match of the season, which was their only defeat in that campaign, 5-4 to Levante. The upcoming flight and contract terms of some players who have to play in South Africa were said to have been a distraction.
Barcelona also hosts the Joan Gamper Cup annually at the Camp Nou, although this match comes a week before the start of the new campaign. Pumas Onam, Juventus, Elche, Arsenal, Boca Juniors and Chapecoense were some of the new guests.
Pep Guardiola feels Erling Haaland has plenty of room to improve in his time at Manchester City.
Will this affect the teams’ start to the season?
Barcelona have a bloated squad so Xavi might see this match positively. It is an opportunity to give more minutes to new signings Frank Casey And the Ravenhawho were both substitutes in the weekend’s win over Real Sociedad, and Jules Condewho is not yet registered to play in La Liga due to the spending cap imposed by the league.
Xavi may also take the opportunity to give some time to play Gerrard PiqueAnd the Sergi RobertoAnd the Miralem Pjanic and other players who did not regularly participate in the two La Liga matches played so far.
The fact of playing at the Camp Nou is also positive, as it means no travel in the middle of the week before Real Valladolid visit on Sunday.
Guardiola may not have such a positive outlook on the procedures. City had an inexperienced bench as they drew 3-3 with Newcastle United on Sunday, although they still managed to leave out players like him. Riyad Mahrez and summer signature Calvin Phillips.
Like Xavi then, Guardiola is likely to take advantage of this match to get a better look at Phillips, Julian Alvarez and the new deal. Sergio GomezOne of the products of the Barcelona Academy.
Speaking while presenting the match in June, Guardiola said he would make a strong squad and City arrived in Girona, just north of Barcelona, with all their star players on Sunday.
A lot of focus will be on the City midfielder Bernardo Silva. Barcelona have made no secret of their desire to sign the player – even president Joan Laporta mocked it in this presentation in June – but he will wear City’s blue uniform on Wednesday. Although Portugal international Rob Dawson was told by ESPN earlier this month that his future was uncertain, City say he is unlikely to leave in the summer transfer window and Barcelona’s financial situation suggests they may not even be able to test City’s standing.