Antwerp make Champions League debut against FC Barcelona
The Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday evening. Belgian champions Royal Antwerp FC make their debut in the competition in Group H and will take on FC Barcelona in their first game.
The Flemish club will face Barça at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, because the legendary Camp Nou is undergoing renovation. Antwerp shouldn't expect any mercy in their first-ever Champions League game: Barcelona are currently second in the Spanish La Liga and demolished Real Betis 5-0 last weekend.
Toughest opponent yet
According to Antwerp coach Mark van Bommel, the Catalan giants will be Antwerp's toughest opponent yet. The Dutchman knows the club well, having won the Champions League as a FC Barcelona player in 2006.
"This Barcelona can win the Champions League," he said. "They are on the right track. Last season, in La Liga, they held off Real Madrid to win the title. But we're not intimidated and we don't have to be afraid. We have to play our own game, as always."
"This Barcelona can win the Champions League"
The match kicks off at 21.00. Group H also features FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, who meet in Germany. The Ukrainian champions have been forced to play their home games in Hamburg because of the war with Russia.
Antwerp have never played in the Champions League, but the club has a rich European history. Their best achievement was reaching the final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1993. They have also faced Barcelona before, beating them 2-1 in the 1965/66 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - the predecessor to the UEFA Cup - before losing 2-0 in the return leg.
#FlandersNewsService | Antwerp players train in Barcelona ahead of Tuesday's match © BELGA PHOTO TOM GOYVAERTS