Estadio Los Cármenes, Granada
Saturday, February 16, 8pm GMT
La Liga leaders FC Barcelona will travel to Granada in match-day 24 of La Liga, looking to keep their 12-point lead at the top against a Granada side that very recently beat Real Madrid at their home. The Catalans have dropped points in their last two away matches and will be looking to correct that this weekend, with Jordi Roura still at the helm. Granada look headed to a far more comfortable finish than last season, but they still need points to ensure they stay in the first division. This is arguably the best match of this round, at least on paper.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Granada have been performing quite well recently, with three wins in the last four La Liga matches, one of them being a 1-0 home win over Real Madrid before a convincing 3-0 win at the Riazor. This streak of good results has put Granada 6 points above the relegation zone and heading to safety. The manager and the players believe that they can do to Barcelona the same that they did to Real Madrid two weeks ago, although they are fully aware that this is an even more complicated challenge. Juan António Anquela has called the same players he had for the Riazor match and the starting lineup shouldn’t be awfully different, even considering the might of this week’s opponent.
Toño will start in goal, with Niom, Lopez, Mainz and Siqueira as the back four ahead of him, shielded by Recio and Rico. Torje, Aranda and Nolito will play behind the sole striker Ighalo. Torje and Nolito will not only be expected to provide an attacking threat down their respective wings, but to track back Barcelona’s runs down the flanks and help their fullbacks stop the inevitable blaugrana onslaught. As always, the key to upsetting Barcelona is to be perfect in defence and close out space as much as possible: that will be Granada’s main priority and only after that will they attempt to catch the Catalans off guard with quick counterattacks.
As a La Masia youth product and former Barcelona player, Nolito might be especially pumped up for this match to prove a point to his boyhood club. He has been one of the best Granada players and his pace might be key to unlocking Barcelona’s defense.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Toño(GK); Nyom, Lopez, Mainz, Siqueira; Recio, Rico; Torje, Aranda, Nolito; Ighalo
This is a team that needs no introductions. Even with Tito Vilanova away in the United States recovering from his illness, the Catalans have looked as ominous as ever, coming from a 6-1 destruction of Getafe last weekend. Xavi Hernandez and David Villa might be unavailable at the moment, but it is unlikely that it will cause much problems, given the wealth of options at Jordi Roura’s disposal. With a key Champions League match in midweek, some players might be rested, especially considering the huge gap the club have over their closest rivals in La Liga.
At the back, Valdés is guaranteed to start, but Puyol and Daniel Alves might very well be rested, with Mascherano starting
alongside Piqué and Montoya in the right flank. Jordi Alba might also sit this one out, with Adriano getting the nod. In midfield, Song has a very good chance of starting ahead of Busquets, with Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas ahead of him. The front trio will, as always, be Messi plus two. With Villa out and Iniesta likely to be rested for the San Siro match, two of Tello, Pedro and Sanchez will start, probably the latter two.
Regardless of who Roura selects to start, Barcelona’s philosophy and identity will remain the same as always, looking to overwhelm Granada with quick, intricate passing from the very first minute.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Valdés(GK); Correia, Piqué, Mascherano, Montoya; Song, Alcantara, Fabregas; Pedro, Sanchez, Messi
Key Match Facts
- Granada have scored 22 goals thus far in La Liga while Lionel Messi has scored 35.
- Barcelona beat Granada 2-0 at Camp Nou.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 1-0 for Barcelona, courtesy of a Xavi free kick goal.
- Barcelona have only got one point from their last two away league matches.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Far from a surprising choice. Lionel Messi is looking to break the goal record (50) set by himself last season, with 35 already in 23 matches. All eyes will be on him as he looks to terrorize yet another La Liga defence this weekend. It will take Granada’s very best efforts to derail the Argentine prodigy and even those might not be enough.
Granada CF 1 – 1 FC Barcelona
With their mind already at San Siro, Barcelona will drop points on the road for the third consecutive match, conceding early and grabbing a late equalizer through the inevitable Lionel Messi.
Blast From the Past