Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos
Saturday, November 8, 16:00 GMT
Matchday 11 of La Liga will see a Barcelona side in mini-crisis travel to Almeria. After leading the La Liga for the first 10 matches of the season, Barcelona now find themselves 1 point behind Real Madrid, who have been looking quite ominous lately – not only winning but demolishing their opponents – making it a serious possibility that Barcelona will be left behind if they don’t pick it up as early as this weekend. Almeria’s fight is a quite different one, but no less important, as any point can help them in their quest to stay in the La Liga.
Team News and Tactical Brief
After a strong start to the season, Almeria have only recorded one point from their last four matches, including three consecutive losses, a bad spell of form that saw them drop to 14th in the table. Even considering the Blaugrana’s shaky form lately, a match against Barcelona is far from ideal when you’re looking to reverse a negative trend but Francisco Rodriguez is still hopeful that his side might cause an upset – that too despite their generally terrible record against Barcelona over the years.
Rodriguez will likely start Rubén in goal, with a back 4 of Navarro, Dos Santos, Trujillo and Dubarbier, followed by a midfield fivesome of Verza, Silva, Azeez, Thomas and Mendez, with Hemed the sole striker. The Almeria manager has often chosen a 5-man midfield in the toughest matches to provide stability and balance to the team. This is, of course, a match where Almeria will be forced to sit back and defend for the most part, the disparity in resources could hardly be bigger, and they will be happy with any points they can get at the end of 90 minutes.
A very discouraging fact for Almeria is that they are yet to record a home win this season in La Liga, with three draws and two losses in 5 home matches, reversing that trend against Barcelona would be fantastic but the odds are clearly stacked against them.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Ruben; Navarro, Dos Santos, Trujillo, Dubarbier; Verza, Silva, Azeez, Thomas, Mendez; Hemed
The past two weeks have been disastrous for Barcelona in La Liga; after a 3-1 loss at the Bernabeu in El Clásico, Barcelona were shocked by Celta – Luis Enrique’s former side – 0-1 at Camp Nou, a string of results that saw them lose their lead in La Liga and led many to put a seemingly ominous Real Madrid as firm favorites to the title, which will become quite undisputable if Barcelona don’t turn the tide immediately. On the plus sides, the Blaugrana have already secured their spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-0 win mid-week against Ajax in Amsterdam in a match where Lionel Messi once again rewrote football history by inscribing his name as the all-time Champions League top scorer with 71 goals in only 90 matches.
Luis Enrique is bound to field a traditional 4-3-3 formation, with Claudio Bravo in goal, Alba, Piqué, Mascherano and Alves at the back, Busquets, Rakitic and Rafinha (or Xavi if he’s not too tired) in midfield, Neymar, Suarez and Messi up front. Due to minor injuries, Iniesta and Mathieu aren’t options for this match. Strategically speaking, this game isn’t really different from most others. Barcelona will look to dominate from the first minute through possession and intricate passing, knowing than an early goal is the key to unlock a match of this nature.
With Real Madrid in incredible form, Barcelona have absolutely no room for error. Any more slip-ups and the title might become little more than a dream.
Key Match Facts
- With 250 La Liga goals, Lionel Messi is only one goal away from equaling Telmo Zarra as La Liga’s all-time top goal scorer.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 2-0 for Barcelona, with Messi and Adriano on target.
- Barcelona have the best defense in La Liga with only 4 goals conceded and Almeria the 4th worst attack with only 8 goals scored.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
The record watch is on again, Messi failed against Real Madrid and Celta but you’d definitely not expect him to do it a third time in a row. Days after equalling the all-time Champions League goalscoring record, Messi is expected to equal or even beat La Liga’s all-time record this time around at only 27 years of age. There’s no finish line for the little Argentine, nor will there likely be any records left standing by the time he calls it a day.
UD Almeria 1-3 FC Barcelona
Almeria have been a very kind opponent for Barcelona over the years, which could well continue on Saturday. Barcelona will be eager to stop their negative streak in La Liga and they might just do so with Messi breaking records en route and Suarez potentially getting his first goal in a Barcelona shirt.
Blast from the Past