A Messi-less Barca faces Bayern

While Bayern will not take Barca lightly, a strike force of Kingsley Coman, middle, and Robert Lewandowski should be expected to shade the contest.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Sergio Busquets said on Monday he was still in a “state of shock” after Lionel Messi’s departure as Barcelona prepares to start its first Champions League without the Argentinian since 2003.

Barca faces Bayern Munich at Camp Nou in Group E on Tuesday and will begin the competition as outsiders following a traumatic summer transfer window.

Messi scored 120 goals in 149 European games for Barcelona and won the tournament four times, in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015, the last three alongside Busquets.

“I felt like everyone else, I was in a state of shock, because of what Leo means for Barca and what he means personally to me and our families,” Busquets said in a press conference.

Busquets said Barcelona is beginning a “new era” without Messi and pointed to Chelsea’s surprise success last season as evidence of what is possible in the Champions League.

Also read: Explained | Why was Messi forced to leave Barça?

Barcelona takes on Bayern for the first time since its humiliating 8-2 defeat by the German champion in August 2020.

Meanwhile, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said things were changing at Barcelona and added that players like midfielders Pedri and Frenkie De Jong and forward Memphis Depay would get opportunities to shine.

Nagelsmann said Serge Gnabry would have to pass a late fitness test to play but Corentin Tolisso was left out due to a calf problem. Kingsley Coman is also in the squad but may not start the game.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he will carefully manage Cristiano Ronaldo’s playing time but has to balance that with getting the 36-year-old Portugal forward settled into the side.

United returns to action in Tuesday’s match against Swiss club Young Boys and Solskjaer said he would not rule out resting Ronaldo.

“It’s not impossible to leave him out,” Solskjaer said. “He is 36. Mason (Greenwood) is 19 so it’s the same, I have to manage his minutes and I have to manage a 36-year-old’s minutes as well.”

Massimiliano Allegri is the man who has taken Juventus closest to its dream of Champions League glory in recent seasons, but he begins this season’s European campaign in the midst of a dreadful start to the domestic season.

Juve kicks off at Malmo, a relatively soft start to Group H which before the Napoli defeat Allegri called the “most important” game of a group which also contains European champion Chelsea.

He should have most of his first choice XI back for the trip to Sweden, with Juve’s South American internationals — including key players Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado — ready to play.

The only doubt remains Federico Chiesa, who also missed Saturday’s defeat through an unspecified muscular problem and trained separately on Monday morning.

Allegri will be hoping that a side resembling full strength can bounce back quickly from its early setbacks as between now and the next international break early next month it will have to face AC Milan and Chelsea, with a Turin derby thrown in for good measure.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 12:33:16 AM |

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