Barcelona host Tottenham in the final Champions League group stage match

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) shakes hands with Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (right) (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) shakes hands with Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (right) (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images) /

The Catalans have a dead rubber against Spurs to finish their group stage campaign.

Barcelona made tough work of PSV in the last match, but they did come away with a 2-1 win to secure top place, so Ernesto Valverde can afford to rest key players for this match without any consequences. Tottenham need a win or at least get a better result than Internazionale in the other fixture in order to reach the knockout rounds. Therefore, this will be a highly competitive affair and could be a good test for some of the B team players as well as individuals on the fringes of the senior squad.

Spurs come into this match in good form with only one loss in their last nine matches in all competitions, although that did come against their hated rivals Arsenal. Barca are also in good form as they have won their last four straight matches with two clean sheets as well as just one loss in the last 15 games. December has seen them restore confidence in the team among supporters after a number of professional performances, but there are still three games left including this one before the end of the calendar year.

The reverse fixture saw Barcelona, and Lionel Messi, put in one of the best performances of the season with a 4-2 win at Wembley in what was a hugely entertaining affair. This match is unlikely to be at the same level if Valverde makes the expected changes to the starting lineup.

Mauricio Pochettino has made Tottenham a tactically versatile team during his time in charge, so they have mastered a number of formations. In the previous fixture, they utilised a 4-2-3-1 formation, but in recent big matches against Chelsea and Arsenal they have set up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation due to the advantages it provides in terms of pressing the opposition.

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The diamond formation is a possibility for this match due to how it could take advantage of a lack of a strong understanding between some of the fringe players in order to disrupt build-up play and force turnovers high up the pitch. However, Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier are both doubts which means Kyle Walker-Peters is likely to start so Pochettino may be tempted with a switch to a back three in order to accommodate the youngster.

Dele Alli did an excellent job of man-marking Jorginho in the Chelsea match, so he’s likely to have the same role with whoever plays as the defensive midfielder whether that be Sergio Busquets or someone else. Keeping Harry Kane quiet will be a tough task for the centre-backs due to his danger in and around the box as well as his intelligent off-the-ball runs that take advantage of gaps in the defensive shape.

Barcelona have been hit with a number of injuries recently so Rafinha, Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Malcom are definitely out while Sergi Samper and Arthur Melo are also doubts. Tottenham are without Moussa Dembele and Davinson Sanchez due to injury as well as Juan Foyth because he isn’t eligible for the competition due to not being registered in the squad. Trippier, Aurier, Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama are all doubts as well.

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Jasper Cillessen, Juan Miranda, Carles Alena and Munir are all fringe players who could start the match. Tottenham’s need for a win means this will be hotly contested, however, Valverde is still likely to field a team with a number of regulars such as Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho. Ousmane Dembele is another player who could feature and he could thrive if Spurs play high up the pitch due to the space it affords him on quick transitions. Expect a high-scoring affair with both teams cancelling each other out.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-2 Tottenham