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LOS ANGELES — Following an unexpected summer tour plot twist straight out of a Hollywood film in which a number of players fell ill with a viral stomach bug that forced the last-minute cancellation of what had been a highly anticipated preseason opener, the Catalans will finally get the chance to raise the curtain here in the United States when they go head to head with Arsenal on Wednesday night at SoFi Stadium.
Deprived of their anticipated debut against Juventus in Santa Clara last Saturday, the players are feeling refortified and reinvigorated, and the focus is now back on football, allowing Xavi to get his first glance of the team in a competitive situation since the end of the previous campaign in early June.
And competitive it will be. Wednesday's grand showdown in LA comes against the London-based Gunners, the reigning Premier League runners-up, who finished second only to Champions League winners Manchester City. To add one more subplot to Wednesday's West Coast spectacle, it is well within the realm of possibility that Barça and Arsenal face each other twice this fall in the Champions League group stage.
Kickoff is set for 7:30pm PT on Wednesday (4:30am CEST on Thursday) at SoFi Stadium, the 70,240-seat indoor-outdoor ground that is the home of the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams.
Barça comes into the game with 15 days of preseason training under its belt. The Catalans worked out in Barcelona beginning on July 10 before flying to LA on July 19 to begin the summer tour.
Two of the team's three signings are expected to make their blaugrana debuts against Arsenal. Ilkay Gündogan, who came to Barça from Manchester City, and Oriol Romeu, who came from Girona, figure to be two of team's main midfield cogs. Iñigo Martínez, who signed from Athletic Club Bilbao, has yet to be declared fit.