Barcelona will be aiming to make it three wins in three games in 2021 when they travel to Los Carmenes to take on Granada on Matchday 18 of La Liga.
After a troubled start to life under Ronald Koeman, Barcelona seem to have turned over a new leaf of late. The Catalans are currently on a seven-game unbeaten run in La Liga and will be out to extend it to eight when they take on Granada at Los Carmenes on Saturday evening.
Following back-to-back wins against Huesca and Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona have climbed up to the third place in the table, closing down the gap to second-placed Real Madrid to five points. And Koeman, after overseeing one of their worst-ever starts to a league campaign, will be hoping that his team are able to continue on their winning ways.
Granada have had an inconsistent couple of weeks, having won and lost two each of their last four La Liga matches. Diego Martinez’s side are seventh in the standings following their 2-0 defeat to Eibar last weekend. But, they bounced back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey earlier this week.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Granada pull off a shock 2-0 win over Barcelona courtesy goals from Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Dimitri Foulquier and Domingos Duarte are back from their suspensions after missing the last league game, while Luis Milla, who had been in self-isolation due to coronavirus, could be in contention to feature having trained with the first-team this week. Neyder Lozano remains unavailable, however.
El Grana are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation when Barcelona come visiting on Saturday evening switching from their usual 4-4-2, with Rui Silva manning the goal. Foulquier and Duarte should slot right back into the starting XI, completing the Granada defence with German Sanchez and Carlos Neva.
Maxime Gonalons, Yan Brice Eteki and Yangel Herrera are likely to be three central midfielders, with Milla unlikely to be rushed back into action. The trio will be critical in curbing the creative output of their Barcelona counterparts, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, who have been in top form of late.
Antonio Puertas ought to get the nod on the right flank and he will look to exploit any space left behind by the marauding Jordi Alba. On the opposite wing, Luis Suarez could feature, although on-loan winger Kenedy is also an option. Veteran striker Roberto Soldado should spearhead the Granada attack against Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Silva; Foulquier, Duarte, Sanchez, Neva; Eteki, Gonalons, Herrera; Puertas, Soldado, Suarez
Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Philippe Coutinho are all ruled out with injuries while Clement Lenglet misses out due to suspension. Barcelona B youngster Ilaix Moriba has earned a call-up to the first-team for the first time, while Konrad de la Fuente and Oscar Mingueza are also part of the 22-man travelling squad.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 8, 2021
Barcelona are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation as well in front of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. There is no looking past Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba for the full-back slots while Oscar Mingueza should replace Lenglet as Ronald Araujo’s partner at the heart of the Catalans’ defence.
Sergio Busquets, who started in midweek against Athletic Bilbao, should make way for Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian will have Frenkie de Jong and Pedri for company, with the duo tasked with providing the creative influence and forward thrust from the middle of the park.
Captain Lionel Messi, who was in top form in the midweek win, should occupy the right flank while Ousmane Dembele should continue out on the left. Antoine Griezmann looked good against Athletic Bilbao and should hold on to his place in the side ahead of Martin Braithwaite.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Mingueza, Araujo, Alba; Pedri, Pjanic, de Jong; Messi, Griezmann, Dembele
- Barcelona lost their last away league game against Granada 2-0. They haven’t failed to win two consecutive away games against the club in La Liga since March 1970 (D1 L1).
- Granada have lost seven of their last eight La Liga games against Barcelona, with their 2-0 win at Los Carmenes last season the only occasion when they have won points during this run.
- Barcelona have lost on two of their last four league visits to Andalusian teams (W1 D1), after having lost just one of their last 12 away games against such oppositions in the competition.
- Granada have lost only one of their last nine league games at Los Carmenes in La Liga (W6 D2) after losing three of their previous four home games in the competition.
- Following their victory over Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona have won three consecutive matches on the road in La Liga for the first time under Ronald Koeman.
Player to Watch
❗Best chance of keeping Messi at Barça, is an 18 year old kid called Pedri.
CONNECTION 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ZQpP3mwh70
— FC Barcelona Fans Nation (@fcbfn10) January 6, 2021
He may just be 18 years old, but Pedri has fast become one of the most important players of Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona team. In 22 appearances across all competitions, the teenager has scored three goals and set up three more. But, his influence goes much beyond just goals and assists.
Pedri has shown great creative pedigree in the Barcelona midfield in recent games while his link-up with Lionel Messi has been a treat for the fans. The former Las Palmas ace has played 26 key passes his term, with only his captain playing more (35) in the entire Barcelona team. Koeman and Barcelona will be hoping that the youngster continues to flourish.
Granada 1-2 Barcelona
Barcelona have picked up three away wins on the row and head into the game high on confidence. However, Granada have turned Los Carmenes into a bit of a fortress this term, having lost just twice at home in all competitions so far, winning two of their last three in La Liga (D1).
So, it promises to be an evenly-contested affair on Saturday’s evening. The Catalans will be fielding an inexperienced defensive unit with Clement Lenglet suspended, and the hosts will fancy their chances of scoring a goal. However, with the likes of Pedri and Lionel Messi hitting their strides of late, Barcelona should have enough to get over the line.