Arsenal play Barcelona in their third pre-season friendly of the summer, following defeats to Frauen Bundesliga sides Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg. The Frauen Bundesliga begins three weeks before the WSL, so Joe Montemurro will be relaxed about defeats to teams who are a few weeks ahead in their preparations.
Barcelona, however, begin their domestic season on the same weekend as the Gunners, who now have all of their players back after the summer’s World Cup exertions. This match will be a much better indication of where Joe Montemurro’s side stand as they plot their WSL title defence and a first Champions League campaign in over five years.
As Champions League runners-up, Barcelona provide the Gunners with the stiff, continental opposition they want as they plan for a European campaign. The match also marks a return to Meadow Park for Arsenal, who played Bayern Munich at Emirates Stadium as part of the Emirates Cup, before flying off to the Austrian mountains to play Wolfsburg.
— Kunjan Malde (@kunjanmalde) August 7, 2019
All of Arsenal’s World Cup stars are available and have returned to full training. Vivianne Miedema was not deemed ready to start in the 3-0 defeat to Wolfsburg last week but could do on this occasion. Arsenal have been dealt a huge blow with the news that Danielle Carter ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament again in the Bayern Munich game.
A million and one things have been running through my mind since that day. Still, I can’t put into words how I feel 💔
Thank you for all the well wishes, I appreciate them all! 👊🏾 pic.twitter.com/8PZBaxfPkj
— Danielle Carter (@DanielleCarter) August 12, 2019
It’s the same knee Carter injured in May 2018 and she faces another spell of roughly 9 months on the sidelines. In better news, Jordan Nobbs is close to a return and took part in the pre-match warm-up against Wolfsburg, there is some chance that she could form part of the squad for this game. Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Leonie Maier and Tabea Kemme should be part of the squad having been rested against Wolfsburg. Lia Wälti is running again and hopes to be back in action in the autumn after a knee injury.
LAST TIME OUT
The teams met in the Champions League in 2012 with the Gunners running out 7-0 winners on aggregate. Goals from Jordan Nobbs, Jen Beattie and Katie Chapman gave the Gunners a healthy 3-0 away leg victory, before administering a 4-0 second leg beating to the Spanish side at Boreham Wood in the second leg. Jen Beattie scored a hat-trick in that one, with Kim Little adding to the score.
Champions League games at Meadow Park were played on weekday afternoons at the time because the floodlights did not meet UEFA requirements. That will not be the case this year with the improvements made to the ground, including the newly built North Stand which Arsenal will play in front of for the first time on Wednesday.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Leah Williamson started the Wolfsburg game in a defensive midfield role. It is a role Leah has played many times before, but not since Joe Montemurro arrived at the club. The Australian immediately insisted on playing Williamson at centre-half, insisting she would become one of the world’s finest defenders.
The loss of Dominique Bloodworth to Wolfsburg and injury to Lia Wälti have left Arsenal light of genuine defensive midfield players. Jen Beattie AND Viki Schnaderbeck can also play there, while right-back Leonie Maier spent the last 20 minutes of the Bayern game in the role. It will be interesting to see whether Joe persists with Leah in a midfield role.
Having bought Janni Arnth in in January and Jen Beattie over the summer, there is more depth at centre-half. I imagine Leah will return to defence soon enough and that Joe may even dip back into the market to reinforce the defensive midfield position.
Barcelona are a rising power in women’s football, as evidenced by their run to the Champions League final last season. They have lost Toni Duggan to Atletico Madrid and Andressa Alves to Roma this summer but have added Wolfsburg’s Danish wide forward Caroline Graham Hansen and Spanish striker Jeni Hermoso.
Vicky Losada and Emma Byrne talking about how Barça Femení has developed since their first UWCL games vs. Arsenal in 2012. https://t.co/GpyS2Sg8hl
— Michele Taylor (@BarcaWomen) May 16, 2019
Barcelona also boast former Gunners Vicky Losada and Asisat Oshoala, both of whom started Arsenal’s 2016 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea at Wembley. Barca will be without Dutch international winger Lieke Martens who has been carrying an injury since the World Cup. Jeni Hermoso is also a doubt.
The confirmed travelling squad for Barca will be: Paños, Van der Gragt, María León, Melanie, Losada, Marta Torrejón, Mariona, Hamraoui, Alexia, Patri, Aitana, Leila, Graham, A. Pereira, Oshoala, Falcón, Pina, Gemma, Codina and Jana Fernandez.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Meadow Park on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm, there should be a small number of tickets available on the door. The match will not be screened live, so follow @arsenalwfc for live updates.
We will have exclusive match reaction from a player after the game. We will also have a full match preview and exclusive reaction to the Spurs friendly on 25th August. Pippa and I will be back with a season preview podcast at the end of the month, but in the meantime, why not check out our interview with Danish duo Janni Arnth and Katrine Veje on adjusting to life in England and at Arsenal.