Barcelona will attempt to maintain their solid start to the new La Liga campaign when they travel to Estadi Montilivi to face Catalan rivals Girona.
The Catalan giants will travel to Estadi Montilivi to face newly-promoted Catalan rivals Girona. Barcelona have won all five of their matches so far in La Liga this season and are top of the table ahead of their trip to Girona on Saturday.
Ernesto Valverde’s side will look to make it six wins out of six in the Primera Division. So far, Barca have beaten Betis, Alaves, Espanyol, Getafe and Eibar in their first five fixtures in La Liga, winning 6-1 against the Basque outfit at Camp Nou last Saturday.
However, Barcelona’s encounter this Saturday will be against a team that has managed to stand strong despite a myriad of troubles. After years of disappointment and struggles with debt, Girona was promoted to the top flight of Spanish football for the first time in their 87-year history, and have started the season very well.
Team News & Tactics
Marc Muniesa will miss out through an injury. Espinosa is expected to return to the Girona XI after starting Wednesday’s goalless draw with Leganes on the bench. Cristhian Stuani should retain his spot in the final third alongside Olarenwaju Kayode, although Spanish forward Portu is pushing for a spot.
Girona have only scored three goals in their opening five league games this season, and two of those have come from Cristhian Stuani, both in the 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan international will be crucial against a side boasting of a strong defence like Barcelona.
If at all Portu can secure a starting spot, Girona will have lesser things to worry about. Portu has been the creative force behind Girona’s front two and he’s a man Barcelona will need to restrict at all costs. The 25-year-old has a great eye for a pass – and when tucked in just behind the front two – he’s Girona’s secret weapon in many ways.
While Girona may not be prove to be a major obstacle for Barcelona, they could prove to be tricky with five players at the back. It will be a unique type of challenge for Valverde’s men and the home side are likely to give it all they have.
Predicted lineup (5-3-2): Iraizoz; Aday, Bernardo, Alcala, Juanpe, Maffeo; Granell, Pons, Portu; Stuani, Kayode.
Ousmane Dembele has undergone an operation on a thigh injury he picked up against Getafe last Saturday and the France forward is now expected to be sidelined for up to four months. Rafinha is also out, but Valverde should have an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from.
Meanwhile, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez are all expected to be back in action after missing out last week. Whether or not Paulinho retains his midfield position remains to be seen with Andres Iniesta raring to start. Gerard Deulofeu, however, should keep his spot in the final third alongside Messi and Suarez.
Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto are also options in central midfield as Valverde looks to shuffle his pack once again. Lionel Messi struck four times against Eibar to move onto nine league goals for the season, and he will be looking to continue his red-hot form against the newly-promoted side.
The Catalan giants have been quite impressive so far, and have a well-rounded side with talented personnel in the front and back. It may prove to be tricky if Girona can play with the same resilience that they did against Atletico Madrid in the opening game of the season, but Valverde’s men seem strong enough to overcome the challenge.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Deulofeu, Messi, Suarez.
- Girona come into this match in 15th place on the standings, having won just one game this season, 1-0 at home to Malaga, ahead of two losses, and a 0-0 away draw wth Leganes on Wednesday.
- Barca have maximum points from their five games, and sit two points clear of Sevilla in first place.
- They smashed Eibar 6-1 last time out, after overcoming Real Betis, Deportivo Alaves, Espanyol and Getafe.
- Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between the Catalan rivals, although Girona did beat Barcelona B 4-2 when they last clashed in May 2015.
Player To Watch
Cristhian Stuani will be on quite a high after scoring two goals in a shocking opening La Liga debut against Atletico Madrid. The Uruguyan striker and former Middlesbrough star will once again be eager to show his worth against the La Liga powerhouse on Saturday.
His threat in front of goal will have to be neutralized by the expertise of Gerard Pique, who will have to pull out all the stops to ensure the match does not end in surprising result for the visitors. With Stuani raring to go, and Girona hosting them at home, Barcelona will have their work cut out for them.
Girona 1 – 3 Barcelona
Hosting Barcelona will be a special occasion for Girona and their supporters, but it is very difficult to imagine the home side picking up a positive result. Barcelona are absolutely flying at the moment, and are likely to extend their 100% start to six matches.
Having said that, Girona have been very spirited at home this season and are expected to get a goal, thanks to the heroics of Stuani. Their defence may not hold up to the combined force of Messi, Suarez and Deulofeu, which could see the visitors pepper the opposition goal to get their names on the scoresheet.
With Barca able to rest a number of key players including Luis Suarez in the tie with Eibar, the away side should convincingly pick up another three points.