Can an absent Messi can change the game?
Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
Key Stat: Given that Leicester and Barcelona have never locked horns before, perhaps the key stat here is the Foxes' 0-4 hammering at the hands of PSG last time out - bizarrely, we think it will help them in a positive way.
Expert Verdict: Claudio Ranieri will know that his side can ill-afford another hammering in this match; in some respects, the International Champions Cup is kind of like a Champions League rehearsal for the surprise Premier League winners from 2015/16; and as such the Italian boss will be looking for a hugely improved display.
Jose Enrique and Barcelona will be happy to cruise through these matches - their La Liga campaign doesn;t start for a while yet - and that lack of intensity will help Leicester to close the gap in what ordinarily would be a comfortable win for the Spaniards.
It is difficult to read Barcelona boss Jose Enrique's perception of this International Champions Cup tournament: in his side's first match against Celtic, he fielded an experimental back four, a youthful midfield and then Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in attack. How he intends to line up here is anybody's guess!
Jose Suarez (GK); Camara, Aleix Vidal, Jose Martinez, Borja Lopez (DEF); Sergi Roberto, Denis Suarez, Sergi Samper (MID); Christian Tello, Munir El Haddadi, Luis Suarez (ATT).
The International Champions Cup is only a friendly competition, at the end of the day, but with the Premier League campaign just a fortnight away Claudio Ranieri will be using this opportunity to ascertain what his best starting eleven is. The 0-4 defeat to PSG last time out was not what the doctor ordered.
Kasper Schmeichel (GK); Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Daniel Amartey, Christian Fuchs (DEF); Nampalys Mendy, Danny Drinkwater, Mark Albrighton, Jeff Schlupp, Andy King (MID); Ahmed Musa (ATT).
Given the fallow period that Leicester City have experienced in the last three decades or more, it may come as no surprise to learn that the Foxes have never played a match – competitive or otherwise – against Barcelona!
The International Champions Cup has given football supporters around the world the perfect opportunity to see the latest batch of young talent off the Barcelona production line, and so far the first impressions have been very good.
However, the Catalan giants struggled to see off Celtic in their opening ICC match, and the media are reporting concerns about Lionel Messi’s mental state after the traumatic summer he has had following investigations into his tax affairs and losing out in the Copa America final and subsequently retiring from Argentina duty. If he is rested here, that will certainly play into Leicester’s hands.
There will be no more messing about from Claudio Ranieri or tinkering around with his squad: his side’s first league game is ten days away and he will need to find a confirmed starting eleven to take into that opener against Hull City. He will be looking to his players to stake their claims here.
The slightly cooler temperatures in Stockholm will play into the Leicester City players’ hands too, and while Barcelona are the rightful opponents expect the Foxes to put in an improved display on August 3.
There is little point in backing Barcelona to win this match at 1/4, so instead we must find some value in the handicap markets. We’re happy to promote the Leicester +1.5 mark given that Barcelona will surely rest Messi and a couple of other big names and Leicester’s intensity levels will have increased.
Steer clear of the goalscorer markets until the teams have been announced and confirmed, and instead give the Both Teams to Score bracket a try at 11/10. Barca’s unusual centre back pairing looked uncomfortable against Celtic and Ahmed Musa’s pace – if he starts – will surely unsettle them further.