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Barça have no games until they host Alavés on 10 September, but there are plenty of chances to catch the players on international duty over the next few days. Most of the European nations are in action twice, first in friendlies and then in the opening round of matches of the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The South American teams have already completed six of their 18 qualifiers – and games seven and eight will be played this week.
Wednesday 31 August
Friendly (Möenchengladbach, 8.45pm) Germany 2-0 Finland
Second half goals from Max Meyer and Paulus Arajuur (og) decided Bastian Schweinsteiger's farewell international. Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept goal for the first 45 minutes of a game played in his home town. He’ll be back in Moenchengladbach later this year when Barça play Borussia in the Champions League.
Thursday 1 September
European U21 Championship (Castellón, 6.45pm) Spain v San Marino
Friendly (Eindhoven, 8.45pm) Netherlands v Greece
Friendly (Brussels, 8.45pm) Belgium v Spain
Friendly (Porto, 8.45pm) Portugal v Gibraltar
Friendly (Bari, 9.00pm) Italy v France
World Cup qualifying (Quito, 11.00pm) Ecuador v Brazil
Friday 2 September
World Cup qualifying (Mendoza, 1.30am) Argentina v Uruguay
If he plays, Thursday offers the first chance to see Jasper Cillessen in action since he left Ajax for Barça. Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Piqué are all in former Barça goalie Julen Lopetegui’s first Spain squad, and they’ll be facing on-loan team-mate Thomas Vermaelen in this friendly. André Gomes is in action for Portugal against little Gibraltar and Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne got call-ups for France.
There’s no time for friendlies in the CONMEBOL zone. Uruguay (13 points), Ecuador (13), Argentina (11) and Chile (10) would go straight to Russia as things stand, while Colombia would go into a playoff. So Olympic champions Brazil, captained by Neymar Jr but without Rafinha, need to get their campaign back on track – which won’t be easy at altitude in Quito. After that, Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano face Barça team-mate Luis Suárez in the latest edition of the Clásico del Río de la Plata.
Denis Suárez is in the Spanish U21 squad who with 13 points currently trail Croatia (18) and Sweden (16) with only the top team guaranteed a place in Poland next year. But the Spanish still have two fixtures against rock-bottom San Marino to come, and the first of those is on Thursday.
Sunday 4 September
World Cup qualifying (Oslo, 8.45pm) Norway v Germany
A tricky opening fixture for Ter Stegen and the defending champions in a group where the other main threats are expected to come from the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland.
Monday 5 September
European U21 Championship (Malmo, 6.45pm) Sweden v Spain
World Cup qualifying (León, 8.45pm) Spain v Liechtenstein
World Cup qualifying (Zagreb, 8.45pm) Croatia v Turkey
Denis Suárez and the Spain U21 team desperately need to get something out of their game in Sweden if they want to stay incontention for a place in the finals next year. Ivan Rakitic will be looking for a repeat of the 1-0 win at Euro 2016 against a Turkey side that does not include Arda Turan. Spain will be expected to get their campaign off to a winning start against minnows Liechtenstein.
Tuesday 6 September
World Cup qualifying (Solna, 8.45pm) Sweden v Netherlands
World Cup qualifying (Barysaw, 8.45pm) Belarus v France
World Cup qualifying (Basel, 8.45pm) Switzerland v Portugal
France, the Netherlands and Sweden have all been drawn together in what promises to be a tight battle in Group A. European champions Portugal got luckier in Group B, and this trip to Basel is at least on paper the most difficult fixture that they’ll have to face. Hungary is the only side in the group that is expected to trouble the top two seeds.
Wednesday 7 September
World Cup qualifying (Montevideo, 1.00am) Uruguay v Paraguay
World Cup qualifying (Mérida, 1.30am) Venezuela v Argentina
World Cup qualifying (Manaus, 2.45am) Brazil v Colombia
In the second round of qualifying matches in the CONMEBOL zone, the three teams with a Barça interest start out as favourites to collect three points.
All times are in Central European Time
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