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NEW YORK — Every story has a beginning, a moment when pen meets paper. For some, the words just ease out onto the page. For others, however, that first sentence is the most challenging. FC Barcelona appears to be falling into the latter category this season as they get set to play their first of three matches in the International Champions Cup against the Italian champions Juventus.
Juventus, as you may know, was responsible for showing Barça an early exit in last season's Champions League, adding further drama to a marquee matchup that will keep Barça busy for all 90 minutes.
A game of firsts
Barça may be opening their seventh U.S. tour, but for all intents and purposes, this one is loaded with firsts. Saturday's Barça–Juve clash will be:
- New manager Ernesto Valverde's first game as head coach
- Barça's first game wearing the new shirt sponsored by Rakuten
- Barça's first game in the New York area since the Club opened its Park Avenue office last September
- Barça's first match at MetLife Stadium (their previous New York visits were to Giants Stadium)
Trident on board
One of the big questions raised when Barça first announced this summer's tour was whether the team's big three—Leo Messi, Luis Suárez, and Neymar Jr—would take part. Not only is the trident turning heads stateside this week, but all the team's big guns are here as well, including defender Gerard Piqué and midfielder Andrés Iniesta. The only regular missing is the goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who was granted extended vacation after leading Germany to the Confederations Cup championship earlier this month.
Saturday's Juve match may be one of the tougher matchups out there. But that doesn't mean things will get any easier. Barça's next two games here are against Manchester United in Washington D.C. on July 26th and against Real Madrid in Miami on July 29th.
But, as they say, you've got to start somewhere.
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