Barcelona will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways in La Liga when they lock horns with SD Huesca at Estadio El Alcoraz on Sunday night.

After a disappointing end to 2020, Barcelona will be hoping to kickstart the New Year on the right note when they travel to Estadio El Alcoraz to take on SD Huesca in Matchweek 17 of the 2020/21 La Liga.

Huesca are rooted to the bottom of the table, having collected just 12 points from 16 games after returning to the top-flight. The hosts have won just one game all season and head into the fixture on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo. Things are clearly not going their way, but manager Michel will be hoping to make the most of his opponents’ inconsistencies and come away with at least a point.

Indeed, Barcelona have been indifferent and inconsistent this term and are sixth in the table following their 1-1 draw against Eibar in their last game of 2020. The Catalans are already ten points behind league leaders Atletico, who also happen to have a game in hand, meaning Ronald Koeman’s side need to get back to winning ways at the earliest or kiss goodbye to any hopes of a title challenge.

The last time Huesca and Barcelona clashed in the La Liga at Estadio El Alcoraz was in April 2019, with the game ending in a goalless draw. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Huesca

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Huesca have been handed a fresh blow ahead of the game as Borja Garcia is ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus. He joins Pablo Maffeo, Antonio Valera and former Barcelona man Sandro Ramirez out on the sidelines. Apart from the quartet, manager Michel has a full squad to pick from, with Pablo Insua returning from suspension.

The home team are expected to set up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez. Pedro Lopez and Javi Galan ought to line up as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. Despite the return of Insua, Michel might opt to continue with the centre-back partnership of captain Jorge Pulido and Dimitrios Siovas.

Pedro Mosquera will occupy the deepest position in the middle of the park and look to disrupt Barcelona’s rhythm and stop their creative output. He will have support from fellow midfielder Mikel Rico, with Juan Carlos Real likely to take up the attacking responsibilities from the centre in the absence of Garcia.

Javi Ontiveros and David Ferreiro will provide the threat from the wide areas and look to make the most of any space left behind by the Barcelona full-backs. Spearheading the attack for Huesca should be veteran striker Shinji Okazaki, with Rafa Mir an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Fernandez; Lopez, Pulido, Siovas, Galan; Rico, Mosquera, Real; Ferreiro, Okazaki, Ontiveros

Barcelona

Barcelona have treated a mixed bag of news on the injury front heading into Sunday’s game. Captain Lionel Messi has recovered from his ankle issue and is back in contention. But, Philippe Coutinho is set for an extended spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury in the last game against Eibar.

Coutinho joins Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto on the sidelines. In addition, Ronald Koeman will also be unable to call upon Samuel Umtiti, who misses out with an illness. Jordi Alba is available again though, after missing the last game due to suspension.

Having fielded his team with a three-man backline in the last two games, Koeman is likely to revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation against Huesca this weekend with Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal. Sergino Dest and the returning Alba should be the two full-backs while Ronald Araujo should partner Clement Lenglet at the heart of the defence.

Sergio Busquets seems to have fallen behind Miralem Pjanic in the pecking order of things, with the latter likely to get the nod once again on Sunday. He will have the ever-present figure of Frenkie de Jong for support in the midfield double pivot. Messi will slot in as the No. 10 and look to pull the strings for Barcelona in the final third.

Ousmane Dembele made a solid impression after coming on from the bench against Eibar. The Frenchman should get the nod on the right flank while Pedri, who has been a bright spark of late for Barcelona should start on the left. Leading the line for the Blaugrana should be Antoine Griezmann with Martin Braithwaite dropping to the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Pjanic, de Jong; Dembele, Messi, Pedri; Griezmann

Key Stats

  • In all competitions, Barcelona have not lost any of their last four games against Huesca (W3 D1), scoring 20 goals while conceding just three.
  • Huesca have failed to win their last two La Liga games against Barcelona (D1 L1). They suffered their heaviest league defeat against the Catalans (2-8 in September 2018 at Camp Nou).
  • Barcelona have not lost their first game of a calendar year in the last five seasons (W2 D3), since losing 0-1 against Real Sociedad away from home in 2015.
  • Huesca have won just one of their seven La Liga games on their home turf this season, drawing four and losing two more.
  • After a run of four away games without a win in La Liga (D1 L3), Barcelona won their last fixture on the road against Real Valladolid 3-0. They will now be looking to win two in a row for the first time under Ronald Koeman.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

A lot will be riding on Messi's shoulders when Barcelona take on Huesca (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

A lot will be riding on Messi’s shoulders when Barcelona take on Huesca (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

As always, all eyes will be on the little magician when he takes the field against Huesca this weekend. Messi will be back in action after missing the game against Eibar due to an ankle problem. Ronald Koeman has confirmed that the Barcelona skipper has trained well and is fully fit to take the field and the manager will look to the 33-year-old to make the difference on Sunday.

Compared to the standards he usually sets for himself, Messi has had a rather slow start to the 2020/21 campaign. So far, the Argentine international has scored just seven goals and registered one assist in 14 La Liga games. If Barcelona are to get back to winning ways and make a push for the title, they will need their captain and talisman firing on all cylinders in the New Year.

Prediction

Huesca 0-2 Barcelona

Huesca are at the bottom of the pile in La Liga with just one win in their 16 games in the competition. While Barcelona haven’t exactly been pulling up any trees this term, a game against a team that seems set for the drop should be a straightforward one, more so with Lionel Messi back in the ranks. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-0 win for Ronald Koeman & co.

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