Barcelona head to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday full of confidence for their latest Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.
The Blaugrana have been on the receiving end of some thumping results against Bayern in recent years – the last three games have seen an aggregate scoreline of 14-2 in Bayern’s favour – but there is real hope that they can be the victors this time after flashing some excellent form under Xavi.
Here’s how the boss could set up to end Barcelona’s losing streak against Bayern.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – The obvious starter, Ter Stegen has conceded just twice so far this season, one of which came late time out in Europe against Victoria Plzen.
RB: Jules Kounde – Kounde isn’t a huge fan of playing at right-back but Xavi won’t have been a massive fan of Hector Bellerin’s debut performance against Cadiz.
CB: Ronald Araujo – Araujo has enjoyed an excellent few years, blossoming into the new leader of Barcelona’s defence.
CB: Eric Garcia – Gerard Pique did a good job against Cadiz but Xavi appears to have moved on from the veteran defender.
LB: Alejandro Balde – Balde has been keeping Jordi Alba out of the team and has so far done enough to fend off competition from new signing Marcos Alonso as well.
DM: Sergio Busquets – His slow style of play doesn’t win a lot of supporters but Busquets is thriving with a couple of young guns doing the dirty work ahead of him.
CM: Pedri – Pedri has already proven himself as one of the top midfielders around and brings an ability to change a game which some of Barcelona’s other midfielders are yet to master.
CM: Gavi – He might have stepped back from creating goals but Gavi now looks more important than ever, doing the ugly side of things defensively before getting things going further up the field.
RW: Raphinha – You sense that there is still another level for Raphinha to hit at Camp Nou but it’s clear that he is enjoying life under Xavi.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – Lewandowski scored four goals in five games against Barcelona for Bayern and is now looking to even the odds.
LW: Ousmane Dembele – Xavi has got the very best out of Dembele this season – expect the Frenchman to be a huge threat down the left.
Nkunku’s secret Chelsea medical; De Gea’s showdown talks
Shortly before the end of the summer transfer window, RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku had a secret medical check-up with Chelsea near Frankfurt in the hope of setting up a transfer in 2023. (BILD)
Kylian Mbappe is desperate to see Neymar leave Paris Saint-Germain and is stunned that the Brazilian gets as much freedom as he does at the club. (L’Equipe)
David De Gea will demand crunch talks with Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag amid concerns that the Red Devils do not want to extend his contract beyond this summer. (Daily Star)
Reports have linked Man Utd with a move for Aston Villa‘s Emiliano Martinez, but the Midlands club have no interest in letting him leave in January. (Football Insider)
Real Madrid are preparing to lose Marco Asensio over the next 12 months, with Arsenal, Tottenham, AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus all keen on signing the Spaniard, who has rejected a contract extension. (Calciomercato)
Of those suitors, Tottenham are expected to make a January bid for Asensio to try and force their way to the front of the queue. (Calciomercato)
Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey, Toby Cudworth and Sean Walsh bring you a brand new episode of Talking Transfers. The team discuss Jude Bellingham’s future, Bayern Munich’s interest in Harry Kane, widespread Premier League interest in Mykhaylo Mudryk and plenty more. Available on all audio platforms.
If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download the episode in full!
Barcelona see Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves as an ideal long-term replacement for 34-year-old Sergio Busquets. (Sport)
Nordsjaelland striker Andreas Schjelderup, who has been compared to Erling Haaland, is a £17.5m target for Arsenal, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, Inter and Juventus. (Calciomercatoweb)
Juventus are looking to sign a new midfielder in January and have added Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, a top target for Arsenal, to their shortlist. (Calciomercato)
James Maddison has told close friends that he is ‘very keen’ to join Tottenham from Leicester City in the near future. (Football Insider)
Bayern Munich are ready to raid Ajax once again, with defender Jurrien Timber high on the German side’s wish list. (Calciomercato)
No decision has been made on the future of Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who remains a target for Barcelona. (The Sun)
The best Bundesliga starter squad
The Bundesliga is always a great place to look for a cheap starter squad for Ultimate Team.
The German top flight has long had some of the most game-breaking cards and that remains the case in FIFA 23, with a handful of players looking like they could go down in history as some of the most terrifying cards the game has ever seen.
Here’s your best Bundesliga budget squad, with each player coming in at under 5,000.
Standing at 6’5, it’s not hard to see the appeal of having Gregor Kobel in your team.
Add in his 88 reflexes as well and you’ll be praying you don’t come up against him.
Alternatives to consider: Koen Casteels, Mark Flekken
As far as cheap right-backs go, the Bundesliga isn’t exactly blessed with elite options, but Ridle Baku is probably your best shout.
He’s mobile enough to keep up with most attackers and just about has the defensive abilities needed to get by.
Alternatives to consider: Marius Wolf, Thomas Meunier
Most of the Bundesliga’s top budget defenders come with high/high work rates, including Nico Schlotterbeck.
You need to make sure you set your tactics up to try and limit his tendencies to move forwards, but once you’ve sorted that out, Schlotterbeck will be a star.
Alternatives to consider: Josko Gvardiol, Evan Ndicka
We want somebody here who doesn’t have the high attacking work rate, so we’ve opted for Timo Hubers.
The 6’3 man comes with 80 pace, 78 defending and 73 physical, which will do the job at this stage in the cycle.
Alternatives to consider: Edmond Tapsoba, Ko Itakura
Over at left-back, we have 81-rated David Raum.
Raum brings 87 pace, 71 defending and 77 physical, but also boasts the secret weapon of 78 dribbling and 77 passing, making him a real danger when you get forward.
Alternatives to consider: Jerome Roussillon, Christian Gunter
A well-rounded midfielder with medium/high work rates, Salih Ozcan is an easy selection at CDM.
His 5’11 body and impressive physical stats are enough to battle with any opponent, while his above-average agility allows him to get across the pitch with ease.
Alternatives to consider: Djibril Sow, Dominik Kohr
Now playing with Bayern Munich, Ryan Gravenberch’s excellent card is far easier to link in FIFA 23.
The Dutchman is well-rounded, with 83 dribbling and 78 passing his stand-out stats, so he’d be a great addition to any team.
Alternatives to consider: Jamal Musiala, Marcel Sabitzer
Florian Wirtz’s superior passing just about gives him the edge over Jamal Musiala here.
That makes Wirtz an all-round threat with excellent dribbling, passing and pace, and his shooting isn’t half-bad either.
Alternatives to consider: Jamal Musiala, Dominik Szoboszlai, Marcel Sabitzer
When it comes to right wingers, you’re going to have to sacrifice something. All the budget options are lacking in one area, whether it be pace, passing or dribbling.
We’ve gone with Karim Bellarabi, who is as close to the full package as you’re going to get at this price point.
Alternatives to consider: Silas, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ihlas Bebou
There are a few intriguing options here. The Bundesliga has a lot of budget strikers flirting with FIFA 14 Victor Ibarbo territory.
Of all those available, Sheraldo Becker stands out. He’s got 95 pace, what more do you want?
Alternatives to consider: Donyell Malen, Karim Adeyemi
Donyell Malen may be better in a central role, but limited options out on the left wing mean we’ll shift him out here for our team.
88 pace, 83 dribbling, 4* skills and 4* weak foot make him a real candidate to shine on the left wing.
Alternatives to consider: Josip Brekalo, Giovanni Reyna
Bayern Munich sporting director responds to claims Sadio Mane is unhappy
Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has spoken out in response to claims that summer signing Sadio Mane is unhappy, saying he is holding talks with the Senegal international.
Mane, 30, joined the German champions this summer for £27m after a trophy-laden six years at Liverpool but has so far struggled to find his feet at the Allianz Arena.
The winger has now gone five games without scoring and was substituted by manager Julian Nagelsmann in recent fixtures against Barcelona and Augsburg.
However, Salihamidzic has thrown his support behind Mane in the wake of recent criticism, saying the club will do whatever it can to help their new signing adapt to life in Germany.
“Sadio still needs a little time, he has to get used to the Bundesliga too, but he will. I speak regularly with him” the sporting director told Bild. “I know what it’s like to arrive as a newcomer to a team, in a different country, in a different city, in a slightly different football culture.
“Sadio is in this process, everything will soon be more familiar to him and we will soon see that on the pitch too. He is one of the best players in the world, we will still have a lot of joy with him.”
Nagelsmann has also been quick to play down suggestions of Mane’s unhappiness, insisting the Champions League winner’s patchy form is nothing out of the ordinary.
“He’s a new signing. He just needs to adapt. He was trying. I’m certain he will succeed for us,” he explained. Everything I need to say about Sadio, I’ll say to him and not in the media.
“It’s quite normal as a newcomer who of course still has to adapt to certain procedures that are a bit different to those at Liverpool.
“I already said during the week that I would like him to do certain things more. Maybe less looking for the ball or team-mates and trying to be a bit more self-confident, but we are very happy that we have him and he will put his stamp on our game.”
Bayern face Bayer Leverkusen in their next Bundesliga fixture as they look to improve on a mediocre start to the season. Nagelsmann’s side slipped to fifth in the table after the defeat against Augsburg and are already five points behind surprise leaders Union Berlin.
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