Barcelona vs Antwerp

Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companya is the venue as Barcelona and Antwerp go head-to-head in their 2023/24 Champions League Group H opener.

After back-to-back Champions League group-stage eliminations for the first time in the 21st century, Barcelona will have a point to prove this season as they embark on their 20th consecutive campaign in Europe’s most prestigious competition. The reigning La Liga champions welcome an Antwerp side they most recently met in the 1965/66 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, running out 2-0 winners in the home lag. However, Xavi Hernandez’s men have fared well in Catalonia lately, managing just four wins in their last ten Champions League home outings (D2, L4). At least in this regard, they won’t feel homesick, especially considering a temporary move to Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companya has yielded a brace of multi-goal margin wins ‘to nil,’ including a 5-0 demolition of Real Betis at the weekend.

On the other hand, Antwerp’s first-ever group-stage appearance in the Champions League comes thanks to a 3-1 aggregate win over AEK Athens in the qualification playoffs, with Mark van Bommel’s side winning both legs by a single-goal margin. Beating the bookies has become a trend for Antwerp, as they defied the odds to win their first league title in Belgium’s elite division since 1956/57 last season. Defending their crown could be daunting, given the competition, yet after only losing once in six top-flight games this term (W3, D2), they’ve made a decent case. A 3-0 thumping of Westerlo in the build-up to this trip will inspire confidence in the traveling camp, as will a six-game unbeaten run in away European action (W3, D3).

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