Seeking to bounce back from their first pre-season loss on Saturday, Arsenal take on La Liga champions Barcelona at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The two teams meet for the first time since August 2019 when the Catalan giants secured a 2-1 friendly win over the Gunners at Camp Nou. Following an unbeaten start to pre-season, with back-to-back 1-1 draws with Watford and Nuremburg followed by a thumping 5-0 win over an MLS All-Star XI, Arsenal tasted their first defeat of the summer at the hands of Premier League rivals Manchester United last weekend. Gunners supporters were excited to see summer signings Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber selected together in the starting lineup for the first time since joining the club for a combined fee in excess of £200m.
However, last season’s Premier League runners-up came up short against the Red Devils, who claimed a 2-0 victory in New Jersey courtesy of first-half strikes from Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho, before Erik ten Hag’s side won 5-3 in an exhibition penalty shootout. Mikel Arteta acknowledged after the defeat that he was left encouraged by the midfield triumvirate of Rice, Havertz and captain Martin Odegaard, but the Spanish boss has admitted that there are ‘a lot of things to improve on’ as they edge closer to the new season. Thursday’s contest will see Arteta come face-to-face with familiar opponents in Barcelona, where he began his playing career back in 1999. The Gunners manager will be hoping to lead his side to their first victory over the Catalan giants in any competition since February 2011 when goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin secured a 2-1 home win in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals – Arsenal went on to lose 4-3 on aggregate, though.
Xavi will be keen to see those available for selection regain their focus ahead of Wednesday’s warm-up contest against Arsenal, whom they have beaten in each of their last four meetings across all competitions, three of which in the Champions League. Barcelona’s upcoming meeting with the Gunners will be followed by friendlies against Spanish rivals Real Madrid in Texas and AC Milan in Nevada, before concluding their pre-season preparations with a Joan Gamper Trophy clash against Tottenham Hotspur on August 8. Arsenal attacker Reiss Nelson remains sidelined with a toe injury, while Arteta is sweating over the fitness of left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who is yet to take part in pre-season due to a calf problem.
Jules Kounde, Alejandro Balde, Eric Garcia and summer signing Oriol Romeu are all believed to be among those affected by the stomach bug and they could therefore miss out on Thursday to ensure that they make a full recovery as soon as possible. Pending a late fitness check, Xavi will hope to hand midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and defender Inigo Martinez their non-competitive debuts following their summer arrivals from Manchester City and Athletic Bilbao.