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It’s that Gamper time of year again! It may ‘only’ be a preseason friendly, but it’s a preseason friendly with a difference. Because it’s at the Camp Nou and it’s FC Barcelona’s traditional first home fixture of the new season (Monday 7 August, kick-off 8.30pm CET)
Yes ... football is back! And if you are in the city there are still tickets available for the match.
It’s also a Gamper with a difference. The very special guests on this occasion are Associação Chapecoense de Futebol, the Brazilian club that lost almost its entire first team squad to an air accident last November when travelling to what would have been the biggest match in its history, the Copa Sudamericana final.
The 52nd edition of the Joan Gamper Trophy is doubling as a tribute to the club and to those who died.
Portuguese full-back Nélson Semedo, signed from Benfica this summer, is set to make his debut appearance at the Camp Nou, and after being promoted from Barça B, Brazilian centre-back Marlon Santos will be gracing the stage for the first time as a full-blooded member of the first team.
This won’t actually be Gerard Deulofeu’s first Gamper Trophy. Although a Barça B player at the time, he featured in the 2012 edition against Sampdoria.
It's also home debut day for manager Ernesto Valverde, who is likely to give playing time to as many members of the squad as possible. The only injury concerns are Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Gomes, who both took knocks in the friendly against Gimnastic Tarragona on Friday and are being left out.
One hour before kick-off (7.30pm CET), the entire first team coaching and playing staff will be officially presented to the fans.
The Chapecoense side includes one of the survivors of the tragedy, Alan Ruschel, who should receive a huge ovation when he takes to the field for the first time since the accident. He's in a team alongside a number of players that arrived for free or on loan, as well as promoted members of the youth squad.
Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Three of the biggest clubs in world football. And what do they have in common? They all lost to Barça in the United States this July. Those may have been warm-up games, but they were enough to tell us that Barça are not just warmed up for the new season – they are roasting hot!
Despite having to assemble a new squad from almost nothing, Chapecoense got off to a surprisingly strong start in Brazil’s Serie A, though they’ve dropped off a bit since, and are now 14th in the 20-team league.
As Copa Sudamericana champions (fellow finalists Atlético Nacional of Colombia gracefully conceded the trophy to them), they also got to play in the 2017 Copa Libertadores. They very nearly made it out of the group stage, missing out by one point to Nacional of Uruguay,
This is, of course, the first time that Barça and Chapecoense have ever met, but Brazilian clubs are no strangers to the Gamper.
Internacional have appeared four times and were the only non-European winners of the trophy in 1982. Santos was the last Brazilian guest, beaten 8-0 in 2013, while Vasco da Gama, Flamengo and Botafogo have also participated.
The game is being screened live on terrestrial television in Spain, and is also being broadcast in various other countries, including Denmark, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel. Our TV guide has all the details.
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