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FC Barcelona’s fourth and final pre-season friendly in the 2015 International Champions Cup has arrived. After having disputed their first three tuneups during a ten-day whirlwind tour of the United States, the Catalans have returned to the Old Continent, more specifically to the Tuscan capital of Florence, Italy, where they’ll take on ACF Fiorentina at 9.00pm CET on Sunday evening at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Barça will be looking to end the tournament on a high-note after winning one and losing two on U.S. soil.
Luis Enrique’s men went through a double workout on Friday and then wrapped up training with a single session on Saturday morning before the coaching staff announced an 18-man squad list for Sunday’s game.
Despite having returned to training this week following extended holidays — which they were granted after competing in the Copa América in July — Lionel Messi, Neymar, Javier Mascherano and Daniel Alves will not be making the trip to Florence. Adriano, with a thigh strain, and Mathieu, who is suffering from otitis after a bout of the flu, also stay behind as precautionary measures, as do Douglas and Arda as they battle to recover from their respective injuries. Goalkeeper Bravo, meanwhile, is not due back at work until after the weekend and Aleix Vidal cannot play because of the FIFA suspension.
The following players will be making the trip: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Pedro, Iniesta, Suárez, Rafinha, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Vermaelen, Sandro, Munir and Halilovic plus Barça B’s Sergi Samper and Gerard Gumbau
Fiorentina are likely to feature some faces which are quite familiar to FC Barcelona. Ex-Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi, ex-Valencia midfielder Joaquín, and new pick-up Mario Suárez, the defensive midfielder who came over from Atlético Madrid last week will form the backbone of Fiorentina's lineup this season.
FC Barcelona would love to finish their first summer participating in the International Champions Cup with a victory. Three days after arriving in Los Angeles on 19 July, Barça beat back their jetlag and cruised to a sterling 2–1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
But despite the fabulous start to the pre-season and confidence riding high, the blaugranas proceeded to drop back-to-back games — a 3–1 defeat to Manchester United at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara before flying east where they fell to a penalty kick shootout loss at the hands of Chelsea at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Luis Enrique’s team played well enough to win both games, though, and afterwards he talked about what needed to be taken away from the tour as a whole.
“We’ve been able to get playing time against top quality opposition, we’ve had the chance to feel the support of lots of our fans, and we’ve been able to promote the Club. We go back home happy,” he said.
Sunday will be Fiorentina’s third game of the International Champions Cup. They fell to Paris Saint-Germain by a score of 4–2 in their 21 July opener at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey before bouncing back with a penalty kick shootout victory over Benfica in East Hartford, Connecticut. Following Sunday’s clash with FC Barcelona, Fiorentina will head to London where they’ll face Chelsea on 5 August.
FC Barcelona and Fiorentina have faced off before, albeit not recently. The last time they played each other was in a pre-season match at the Artemio Franchi back in 2008. Barça won that day by a score of 3–1. The sides have also clashed three times before in official competition — the first coming fifty years ago — with Barça winning all three.
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