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FC Barcelona are in Doha, Qatar this Tuesday to compete in the Qatar Airways Cup Match of Champions with Al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia. The 18,000 capacity Al Gharaffa Stadium is sold out for a match that’s created a huge buzz throughout the Middle East.
Barça are travelling with their strongest possible squad. From the first team only the injured Jérémy Mathieu stays at home, while there were also seats on the plane for Barça B’s Carles Aleñá and Borja López.
The full squad is as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Busquets, Denis Suárez, Arda, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti, Aleñá and Borja López.
The opposition are entirely Saudi nationals with the sole exceptions of Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Egypt), Giannis Fetfatzidis (Greece), Luíz Carlos (Brazil) and Omar Al Soma (Syria).
Al-Ahli manager Christian Gross will be a familiar face to followers of Tottenham Hotspur, Basel and Stuttgart, which are among the Swiss coach’s former employers.
Not only is this the first time that Barça have ever played in Qatar, but it is also their first ever encounter with a team from Saudi Arabia.
In fact, it’s only the seventh time the Catalans have ever faced a side from an Arab country, and the balance of five wins in the previous six meetings, with 29 goals for and just two against, makes the blaugrana clear favourites for this one. Kazma Sporting Club of Kuwait, in a 1-1 draw in a 2009 friendly, is the only Arab side that has ever avoided defeat to the Liga giants.
Barça go into this game after ending a run of three consecutive draws in La Liga with a 3-0 win away to Osasuna. After this friendly, Luis Enrique will still have five more days to prepare for the derby with Espanyol on Sunday at 8.45pm CET.
Al-Ahli, who hail from Jeddah, on the western coast of Saudi Arabia and the second largest city in the country, are the defending champions of the Saudi Professional League. They are fourth in the table after the first twelve games of the current season. They failed to make it out of the group stages of the 2016 Asian Champions League.
There are plenty of options available for watching the game on TV around the world, and it is also being streamed for free on the new BarçaVIDEO service. And as usual, you can keep up to date with all the news as it arrives via our official social networks.
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