Arsenal end their pre-season preparations with this fixture against Barcelona at the Nou Camp – quite the way to ensure we’re warmed up fully for the coming campaign.
Any game, friendly or not, against the likes of Barcelona will give us the strictest of workouts, and our first team, whoever that may be on the day, can look forward to a game in one of the greatest stadia in the world against a team known for some of the best football in the world.
Unai Emery has seen some surprising and excellent performances from his men during this summer, both on the US tour and after, and a lot of positives have been regarding our promising bunch of kids pushing through to the first team.
They may or may not be involved, but most likely the majority of our strongest team will be lining up against Los Blaugranas in their own home. Some of our kids though, have done their prospects no harm with what they have done on the pitch recently, and can look forward to an elevated responsibility in the squad for our upcoming season.
We must take this game seriously though. Warm up or not, it is our last opportunity to stretch our legs and get rid of the rust, and also make sure our tactics are being fully deployed by our players.
Unai Emery could experiment, he could go with what he has planned for our first game of the season against Newcastle.
How will our team line up in Catalonia?
It is doubtful that Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will line up here. That could mean a first tart for Dani Ceballos in the playmaker role, or alternatively, Henrikh Mkhitayran or Jo Willock are primed.
Lucas Torreira could feature here for the first time in pre season after returning from action in the Copa America. Matteo Guendouzi is another who could be in central midfield, especially if Emery opts for a 4-3-3.
In defence, Koscielny is still absent and it is increasingly likely he has played his last game for Arsenal. Calum Chambers, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi are our options in the centre of defence, despite Rob Holding returning to action in a recent U-23 game.
Will Nicolas Pepe play? Probably not. The same goes for Alexandre Lacazette, as the Frenchman came off against Lyon as a precaution and a potential injury is simply not worth the risk. That means a likely start for Eddie Nketiah.
Player to Watch
Frenkie De Jong
The highly-rated Dutchman moved from Ajax this summer in a big money move, but De Jong is worth every penny if last season is anything to go by. If he can keep his place and play regularly, his passing could be the key to replacing the aging Ivan Rakitic. De Jong possesses the coolest head despite his age and he could dictate the rhythm to this game if afforded the space.
How the game could go
Barca will dominate possession, but that suits us fine. We have slowly moved from a team who is redundant without the ball, to an outfit that can hit quickly in lightning strikes from deep. The important thing for us is an effective outlet.
That means pace up top and a player who can put their foot on the ball and pick out a pass, especially long range. That is pretty much Xhaka’s strong point, so when we break up an attack, we need our attackers running and Xhaka on the ball.
We will need to both attack and defend as a unit, as if we don’t then a team like Barca, especially when buoyed by a home crowd, can really make you pay.
The result is less important that making sure our boys are in ship-shape for Newcastle next week, but it is still important. If we can come away from the Nou Camp with a win? Just imagine what that would do for our kids belief.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Aubameyang, Willock, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah
Predicted Scoreline – 2-2