Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen

Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen are set to lock horns at the Spotify Camp Nou in their opening Champions League Group C showdown.

Last season’s shocking Group E exit marked Barcelona’s first Champions League group stage elimination in 17 seasons and induced drastic changes at Camp Nou. Notably, before Bayer Munich’s thumping 3-0 win in the 2021/22 Champions League curtain-raiser in Catalonia, the ‘Blaugrana’ had gone unbeaten in 22 consecutive competition openers (W17, D5). But, after signing a host of top-class players, including the third joint-highest Champions League goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, Xavi Hernandez’s men have enjoyed a blistering start to the new La Liga season (W3, D1). They’ve averaged 3.66 goals per match in their last three league outings, suggesting their two-game winning record against Plzen in the Champions League should extend come Thursday. Equally impressive on the other end of the pitch, Barca have kept a clean sheet in both home league outings this term.

In the meantime, visiting Viktoria Plzen embark on their fourth appearance in the Champions League group stages but first since 2018/19 in high spirits. Going into this encounter, Michal Bilek’s men have strung together a club-record 34-match unbeaten run across all competitions (W25, D9), including five victories in six Champions League qualifying fixtures (D1). Though those games came against lesser-ranked teams, that takes nothing away from Plzen’s legitimate attempt to defy their status as whipping boys in this ‘group of death.’ The first step requires the reigning Czech Republic champions to arrest an underwhelming record of four defeats on Spanish soil, three of which saw them draw a blank. That might be easier said than done, considering the Czechs have lost both previous Champions League meetings with Barcelona via 2+ goals ‘to nil.’

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