European giants Barcelona and Chelsea lock horns in a high-profile Rakuten Cup friendly clash in Saitama, Japan on Tuesday.
Frank Lampard’s Blues are looking to bounce back after a disappointing late defeat to reigning J1 League champions Kawasaki Frontale in Yokohama on Friday, while the Blaugrana are just beginning their pre-season campaign.
Ernesto Valverde could opt to hand Barcelona debuts to new signings Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Neto at Saitama Stadium, while the contingent of youngsters on the tour – nine of the 26-man squad are from Barca B – will be eager to make an impression.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Arthur Melo are all absent after their exertions at the Copa America, but Rafinha did travel after an injury issue.
Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante, who has been sent back to London to undergo further treatment following the recurrence of a knee problem.
The French midfielder initially felt discomfort in his knee ahead of the Europa League Final victory over Arsenal in May, but played in that match before withdrawing from international duty with France and sitting out Chelsea’s trip to Ireland.
Kante travelled to Japan with Lampard expressing hope that he would be fit to feature in one of two scheduled matches, yet that has not been possible and he will now return to Cobham in the hope of being ready for Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Manchester United on August 12.
Kepa Arrizabalaga and Tammy Abraham are both back in training after missing the defeat to Kawasaki Frontale due to illness.
Christian Pulisic came on as a substitute in that first friendly after joining up with his new team-mates following the Gold Cup and will no doubt be pushing to start in Saitama.
Barcelona XI: Neto; Semedo, Todibo, Umtiti, Alba; Monchu, Busquets, De Jong; Malcom, Abe, Griezmann
Chelsea XI: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Alonso; Barkley, Mount, Bakayoko; Pedro, Kenedy, Giroud
Source: Evening Standard