It has been nine seasons since FC Barcelona lifted the UEFA Champions League, but a resurgent side is once again aspiring for Europe’s top prize. Barcelona won La Liga for the first time in five years last season, officially bringing to an end a lengthy on-field rough patch. The team is still riding that high this season — they’ve enjoyed a near-perfect start in La Liga this season and are expected to maintain that form through the Champions League group stage. Barcelona are the heavy favorites to top Group H when all is said and done and will start their quest to do so with a match against Royal Antwerp they are expected to win.
Here’s what you need to know before tuning in.
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How to watch and odds
- Date: Tuesday, September 19 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys — Barcelona, Spain
- Watch: Paramount+
- Odds: Barcelona -600; Draw +625; Antwerp +1400
Barcelona are unbeaten in five La Liga games this season, scoring 13 goals and conceding just four in the process. The Spanish champions are coming off a decisive 5-0 win over Real Betis on Saturday in which new signings Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo scored while returning talent Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres also excelled. The latter two have stood out so far — Torres has three goals so far, while Lewandowski has two — but there seems to be a team-wide sense of joy that feels like a staple of the Barcelona way this season.
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“Today they played with a joy that raises the level of the team,” manager Xavi said about Felix and Cancelo after the Betis win, according to The Athletic. “They have been hard workers for the team and that’s the most important thing. We have to take advantage of the positive dynamic they have.”
The same rings true for Lewandowski, per Xavi: “He’s enjoying himself and didn’t need to leave his position frequently. We provided him with passes at the right moments. He seems happy.”
The team seems virtually unstoppable during their joyous run of form, and though the season is still young, it is worth asking: How far can Barcelona go, both at home but especially in Europe? Time will tell, but a deep run is likely the expectation as the storied club aims to recapture past glory.
All signs point to Barcelona picking up a commanding win against Antwerp and starting their Champions League campaign on a high, especially considering how well the team’s forwards are performing. Expect goals and plenty of them. Pick: Barcelona 3, Antwerp 0