Unai Emery went with experience in this Joan Gaspar trophy showpiece. Bernd Leno took the gloves, Ainsley Maitland-Niles slotted into right-back, with Calum Chambers partnering Sokratis and Nacho Monrreal completing the back four.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka was in a pivot with the impressive Jo Willock and our attack consisted of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Reiss Nelson, the returning Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the single striker.
It was definitely a signal of intent and our lineup for our first game of the season could share some similarities with the eleven that lined up at the Camp Noi.
The first half was an exercise in patience, with our men looking for the perfect opportunity to unleash a counter attack, and the home team harnessing the lions share of the ball and looking to stretch our men to slip in the likes od new signing Antione Griezmann.
For the most part it was a case of oh so close, but yet so far. The final ball was lacking from both sides, although movement from both teams was quite sharp. Jo Willock denied what would have been the clearest chance, throwing himself in the way of a cutback from the byline.
Then we made a great move thanks to Maitland-Niles, who came very close to slipping in Auba, and it was all down to the young Englishman who showed great instincts and pace.
Leno bailed us out soon after, with Jordi Alba working space and the German in the right place to repel the Spaniard.
So it was a great surprise when we took the lead a minute later.
Auba received the ball centrally just outside the box. His first touch he rolled to his left and it worked space, a yard or tow. It was all he needed, and he lashed home a superb effort that the keeper had no chance to keep out.
Barca threatened again before half time, but at the break we went in a goal to the good.
The second half saw six subs from the Catalans, with the likes of Ter Stegen, Lenglet and Busquets coming on. We made a change of our own, with Kolasinac replacing Monreal.
Barca picked up where they left off, and we were penned in, with Chambers in particular looking effective in stopping wave after wave of attack. Willock was next to stop Los Blaugraunas, clearing from the line. We could do nothing to quell the rapid movement of the ball, but we were hanging on.
Three more subs from Barca next up, but it wasn’t any of them that would score the equaliser but one of our own.
Maitland-Niles did so well to cut out a through ball, but didn’t look where Leno was when passing back, so the ball rolled into the empty net.
Tragic, but that wasn’t the end of it.
Mustafi came on for Sokratis with minutes to go. Near instantly, we conceded. A ball over the top was between both Mustafi and Chambers, with Suarez lurking to fire a volley home.
There was no time to hit back and so the game ended with us losing by a fine margin.
What can we take from the result?
Willock Once Again Impresses
Willock can have done no more during this pre-season. Whether it be in the front attacking quartet, in the centre as an 8 or as a 6, he has impressed throughout. In this game, he showed his defensive merits as all hands were on the pump. Willock has to be classed as a veritable first teamer now.
Chambers To Start Vs Newcastle?
Chambers did well for Fulham last season, and since his return, has shown Emery that he can be a valued member of the team. With Koscielny looking ever-more certain to depart, Chambers has stepped up and could be a great option for our defence this season. All that Barca threw at him, Chamber had the majority of answers.
We lost, but we showed steel
For the majority of the time, we were chasing shadows. We also showed that even when under the hammer, we can hold our own. In the face of an attack that contained Griezmann, Dembele and Suarez, we were looking good. There are rays of hope for our defence this season, fret not!
That is the end of our warm ups. Next up is our first Premier League game, versus Newcastle next weekend.