FC Barcelona play their first friendly of the preseason this evening (18.00, TV3, GolT) against Hamburg, in what will be the new manager’s first game in charge
Vilanova is missing Spain internationals Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Piqué, Pedro, Cesc and Valdés, who are still on holiday, and Montoya, Jordi Alba and Tello, who are at the Olympics
He is also without the injured Cuenca, Thiago, Villa, Puyol and last-minute absentee Messi
The Germans are unbeaten in seven games so far in the preseason
Things are about to really get started. On Tuesday (18.00, TV3, GolT), in one of Europe’s finest stadiums, the Imtech Arena, Tito Vilanova will manage Barça for the first time since being appointed head coach. After eight days of training, this is the first of five games around Europe before the Liga season commences, and also marks the 125th anniversary of historic Bundesliga outfit Hamburg.
No Spain internationals...
None of Valdés, Piqué, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and Pedro are due back until July 30 after they were given extra time off after playing in Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 team.
... and no Messi
The only new signing, Jordi Alba, is also absent, as well as Tello and Montoya, for the trio are away at the Olympics, while in addition to Puyol, Cuenca, Villa and Thiago, Messi is also out through injury. But Barça still have some quality players like Alves, Alexis and Mascherano in the squad that will take on the historic German club.
Young and physical
There are 27 players in the Hamburg squad, and only two of the goalkeepers, Drobny and Neuhaus, have passed their 30th birthdays. With an average age of 24, there’s plenty of youth in the team, with the most outstanding players including Turkish midfielder Tolgay Arslan, the top scorer in preseason games so far with four goals in seven games.
Hamburg finished a disappointing fifteenth in the Bundesliga last season, with just 8 wins, 12 draws and 14 defeats. But they are unbeaten in all seven preseason games played to date.
Founded in 1887, the club has won seven German championships and one European Cup, in 1983. FC Barcelona are the very special guests this evening at their 125th anniversary celebrations.