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Granada CF


Camp Nou, Barcelona
          Saturday 9th January 2016, 1500 GMT

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FC Barcelona host La Liga relegation candidates Granada CF at the Nou Camp on Saturday, hoping to go top of the table after picking up only a point in three of their last four league games

 

The Catalan giants have had a hugely successful half-season led by Brazilian winger Neymar and striker Luis Suárez, and despite being without Lionel Messi for a large chunk of it, FC Barcelona have fought their way to the top of the league, taking advantage of Real Madrid’s struggles under the recently-sacked Rafael Benítez.

However, a few chinks are beginning to appear in their armour of late, with Luis Enrique’s men being held to draws in three of their last four La Liga games — by Valencia, Deportivo and Espanyol respectively. Luckily for them, Real Madrid have failed to take advantage, and the title holders now have the opportunity to put another winning run together when they take on Granada.

Having lost three of their last six games in the league, Granada currently lie 17th, two points off the relegation zone. Victory over Sevilla in their previous league game should have given them confidence, however, ahead of what promises to be their most daunting challenge of the league campaign.

Team News and Tactics

FC Barcelona

Manager Luis Enrique has no new injuries to think about, and in positive news for FC Barcelona, midfielder Sergi Roberto has been passed fit for the weekend’s game after missing the midweek Copa del Rey clash due to a thigh injury.

Summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will also be available for selection in a La Liga game for the first time, with both in line to make their FC Barcelona league débuts. Neither is likely to start, however, with Enrique expected to make minimal changes from the side that was held to a goalless draw by Espanyol.

Only one midfield spot is undecided in an otherwise predictable 4-3-3, but Andres Iniesta’s 90 minutes in midweek might see Sergi Roberto being preferred over the legendary playmaker. On paper, this should be one of the easiest fixtures for the Catalans, but they will have to make sure they do not slip up defensively as they did against Deportivo, while taking the chances they do get, as they failed to do against Espanyol.

FC Barcelona will undoubtedly have the lion’s share of possession, but will need to be careful of Granada’s threat on the break, particularly from top-scorer Isaac Success, who scored in his previous Liga game against Sevilla with an opportunistic finish.

Possible starting line-up (4-3-3): Bravo; Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitić, Sergi Roberto; Messi (C), Suárez, Neymar

Granada CF

José Sandoval will be looking for a reaction from his players after falling to a 4-0 defeat to Valencia in their Copa del Rey meeting in midweek, and the huge challenge at the Nou Camp might just provide the right kind of motivation for the team.

Left-back Cristiano Biraghi, who is on loan at Granada from Inter Milan, is available after serving a one-match suspension, while there are no new injuries for Sandoval to deal with.

Granada are likely to field a 4-3-3 formation, with a hard-working, pacey forward line featuring two tyros in joint top-scorer Adalberto Peñaranda and Success, and the more experienced Rubén Rochina. The three will arguably hold the key to any success the away side might have, with Sandoval likely to instruct them to help out defensively, while they will also be expected to make a difference on the counter-attack when such a scenario arises.

Pressing high up the field got them their first goal against Sevilla, but doing so against FC Barcelona is a risky business. The Andalusian side will have to be organised and compact in defence, and will have to hope that Barcelona’s front three have another off day to get something out of this fixture.

Possible starting line-up (4-3-3): Andrés Fernández; Foulquier, Mainz (C), Lombán, Biraghi; Rubén Pérez, Fran Rico, Javi Márquez; Rochina, Success, Peñaranda

Key facts

  • Granada have failed to keep a clean sheet in the 2015-2016 season,  conceding 4 goals to Las Palmas in their last away match.
  • FC Barcelona’s 0-0 draw against Espanyol in their last game was the first time they have failed to score a goal this season.
  • Granada have conceded more goals than any other team in La Liga with the exception of Rayo Vallecano.
  • FC Barcelona have a better goal difference than any team in the league with the exception of Real Madrid.
  • Lionel Messi has scored 6 goals in his last 4 matches in all competitions.

Man to watch

Lionel Messi

FIFA Club World Cup 2015

At his best, there is nobody quite on the level of FC Barcelona superstar Leo Messi, and with 6 goals in his last 4 games — including a brace in the midweek Copa del Rey derby against Espanyol — it seems as though the Argentine is slowly returning to his goalscoring best.

Granada are likely to be beaten handsomely at the Nou Camp, and the game will provide Messi an opportunity to boost his goal tally for the season and make up for lost time. As they usually are, all eyes will be on one man in Barcelona on Saturday.

Prediction

FC Barcelona 4 – 0 Granada CF

Any result for Granada will be a massive surprise given the attacking strength of FC Barcelona. The Spanish champions are likely to have a very comfortable Saturday afternoon, and the more pertinent question is not if Luis Enrique’s side will score, but how many.

Blast from the past