Barcelona will be aiming to begin the new year just as they had ended 2018, as they travel to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez to take on Getafe on Sunday

Matchday 18 of La Liga will continue on Sunday, with most of the bigwigs returning to action. The final game of the day will be played in the capital, when Getafe play hosts to Barcelona at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, looking to produce a shock results that could throw the title race wide open.

Getafe have been one of the surprise packages of Spanish football ever since they returned to the top flight last season. The Azulones narrowly missed out on a Europa League berth in 2017-18, ending the campaign with an 8th-placed finish. Jose Bordalas’ men have started this term in a similar vein of form, currently sitting 7th on the table with 25 points.

Barcelona, on the other hand, have taken charge of the La Liga title race yet again, going three points clear at the top of the table before the winter break. But, the defending champions haven’t quite been at their domineering best for large parts of the season, which bodes well for Ernesto Valverde’s men, in a way.

The corresponding fixture last season saw Barcelona come from behind to beat Getafe 2-1, with Paulinho scoring an 84th minute. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Getafe

Getafe have been on a solid run of form lately. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Getafe have been on a solid run of form lately. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Jose Bordalas does not have many pressing concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Barcelona. On Sunday, the Getafe boss will be without just two first-team players, with Amath Ndiaye and Markel Bergara missing out due to their respective long-term injuries.

Bordalas sets his team up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, aiming to be direct when moving forward, playing long balls towards star striker Jorge Molina. In defence, the emphasis is on having a back four that plays together week in week out, so as to breed a sense of familiarity and strong understanding.

With that in mind, Djene Dakonam should resume his partnership with Leandro Cabrera, with Damian Suarez and Vitorini Antunes being the full-backs. The four defenders will look to be aggressive with their pressing while adopting a no-nonsense attitude while making the tackles.

David Soria should be the man in goal once again, with the former Sevilla man filling Vicente Guaita’s void with elan. Up ahead in midfield, Nemanja Maksimovic has been tasked with the responsibility of holding the fort in the middle of the park in the absence of Markel Bergara.

The Serb’s partner in midfield, Mauro Arambarri is the more adventurous of the two, with the Uruguayan midfielder being a factor on both ends. Jaime Mata is likely to be deployed on the left flank, with Amath Ndiaye being sorely missed in attack. On the opposite wing, Dimitri Foulquier should start.

Upfront, Jorge Molina is the typical target man for Getafe, as iterated earlier, with the veteran striker having the long balls directed towards him. His strike partner should be Angel Rodriguez, with the 31-year-old playing off Molina.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Solari; Damian Suarez, Djene, Cabrera, Antunes; Foulquier, Maksimovic, Arambarri, Mata; Angel Rodriguez, Jorge Molina

Getafe

Barcelona

Samuel Umtiti is the only major absentee for Barcelona, with the Frenchman out with a long-term knee injury. In addition to Umtiti, Rafinha, Sergi Samper and Thomas Vermaelen are also sidelined, although Samper and Vermaelen have recovered from their respective injuries and are set to resume training.

In Umtiti’s absence, Clement Lenglet has stepped up brilliantly, having forged a strong partnership with Gerard Pique. Meanwhile, Jeison Murillo is set to be part of the matchday squad before potentially making his debut in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Nelson Semedo has been in fine form lately, and should continue to start ahead of the fit-again Sergi Roberto, while Jordi Alba is a certain starter on the left side of the Barcelona defence. Up ahead in midfield, there have been concerns over the fitness of Sergio Busquets, although he has been included in the matchday squad.

Ernesto Valverde though, has been infamous for sticking with his preferred midfielders even if they are not fully fit, meaning Busquets should start, with Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal being his partners. Arthur has been a fine addition to the squad, but Vidal’s solid form ahead of the winter break means he should start.

In attack, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are certain starters, with the only position up for debate being the one on the left flank. Ousmane Dembele’s superior form means he should get the nod over Philippe Coutinho and Malcom.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Luis Suarez, Dembele

Barcelona

Key Stats

  • When playing their first match of a new year, Barcelona have lost just one of their last 13 games (W7 D5), 0-1 at Anoeta in January 2015. However, they have only won one of the last four in this run (W1 D2 L1).
  • Barcelona have scored in each of their last 30 games away from home in the Spanish League. The Blaugrana are two games away from equalling their best scoring run as visitors in the competition: 32 games on the road between February 2012 & September 2013.
  • Sunday’s game will pit the team with the most possession (64.83% on average for Barcelona) and the lowest (37.87% on average for Getafe) against each other.
  • Ernesto Valverde has won 13 out of 17 league meetings with Getafe (D1 L3), the most against an opponent in his managerial career.
  • Lionel Messi has scored 12 goals in his last 15 games against Getafe in La Liga (equalising David Villa). Only Cristiano Ronaldo (23) has scored more goals against this side.

Player to Watch

Djene Dakonam

A tough challenge beckons. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

A tough challenge beckons. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

One of the finest additions in La Liga in recent years, Djene Dakonam’s signing has been one of the catalysts for Getafe’s advent in Spanish football lately. Quickly becoming the leader of the pack in defence, the Togolese centre-back has been a force to be reckoned with for the Azulones.

If Getafe are to stand a chance against Barcelona on Sunday, Djene will have to come good, just like he had in the last meeting between the two sides. A tough challenge against one of his admirers beckons for the 27-year-old, but one that he can successfully negotiate.

Prediction

Getafe 0-1 Barcelona

Getafe have been on a roll once again this season, with Europa League qualification a great possibility. The Azulones’ success this term has been built on the back of a solid defence – only Atletico Madrid have conceded fewer goals than them. With that in mind, it will be a tough test for Barcelona on Sunday.

The visitors have not been swatting sides away on a regular basis either, although the form of Lionel Messi stands them in good stead. As far as defence is concerned, the likes of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet could struggle against Getafe’s direct approach.

All things considered, Sunday’s tie has all the makings of a closely contested affair, and very little should separate the two sides. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-0 win for Barcelona, with Getafe going down fighting.