FC Barcelona play their second preseason friendly this evening (8.45 PM CET). After an intense week of training in Birmingham, they are heading home, but stopping off in France on the way for a friendly against Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice (OGC). A whole fortnight has passed since the last FCB friendly, the 1-0 win in Huelva, but after the time in England was entirely focused on training, the week ahead features no fewer than three chances for the players to get some match practice. After Nice, Barça travel to Geneva to play Napoli (August 6) and then to Finland where they’ll be entertained by local league champions HKJ Hèlsinki (August 9).
It promises to be a very special night for four players in particular. New signings Bravo, Rakitic and Mathieu could all be making their debuts in France, as could Rafinha, who after returning from Celta on loan was unable play any part in the game with Recreativo Huelva due to injury.
Meanwhile, Piqué, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro are all set to play their first game since Spain’s dismally early exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That would mean the only players yet to get the 14/15 season under way, other than the suspended Luis Suarez, would be Alves, Mascherano, Neymar and Messi, who are all still on holiday, and Song, who had to leave the team camp in Birmingham for family reasons.
It’s still early days as far as FC Barcelona’s preseason plans are concerned, but it’s a different story for OGC Nice. They start their Ligue 1 campaign against Toulouse next weekend, and this is their last run-out before then.
Like Barça, they too have spent part of their preseason in England, where they lost to Brentford (3-2) and Norwich City (5-1). It’s been a disappointing preseason so far for the ‘Eaglets’, for their other two friendlies, against Paris Saint Germain and Bordeaux, also ended in defeat.
Claude Puel’s side narrowly managed to escape relegation last season, and since then have lost Colombian international goalkeeper David Ospina to Arsenal, but the new additions include Belgian midfielder Julien Vercauteren and Swedish international Niklas Hult.