Barcelona will be aiming to close down the gap to the top of the La Liga table when they lock horns with bottom feeders SD Huesca on Monday night.
Matchweek 27 of the 2020/21 La Liga fills over to Monday with the final fixture of the round set to be played out at Camp Nou as title hopefuls Barcelona face off against relegation contenders SD Huesca.
Barcelona slipped down to third place in the standings after Real Madrid registered a 2-1 win over Elche on Saturday. Ronald Koeman’s men are seven points off of leaders Atletico Madrid and cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay in the hunt for the title. Following their disappointing exit from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of PSG this past midweek, the Blaugrana will be aiming to get back to winning ways on Monday.
Huesca, meanwhile, look primed for relegation back to the second division, as they are rooted to the bottom of the table, with just 20 points from 26 games. Following the 4-3 defeat to Celta Vigo last week, Pacheta’s side are four points off of 17th-placed Elche and can mount a recovery, but like Barcelona, cannot risk dropping anymore points, albeit for different reasons altogether.
The reverse fixture played in January last year saw Barcelona eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Huesca, courtesy of a first half strike from Frenkie de Jong. And ahead of their latest meeting on Monday night at Camp Nou, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Ronald Araujo is present in today's ongoing training session. pic.twitter.com/E6ecGtfyJC
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 14, 2021
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman is set to be boosted by the return of Ronald Araujo but the game comes to soon for veteran defender Gerard Pique. In addition, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati are also unlikely to be available while Sergi Roberto is also a major doubt.
The three-man defensive system has worked quite well for Barcelona of late and Ronald Koeman is likely to stick with the same setup on Monday night, with Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet and Araujo shielding Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal.
Sergino Dest is the obvious pick at right wing-back while Junior Firpo could get a rare run-out on the left side after he showed some positive signs in the game against PSG in midweek. The duo will have a key role to essay as they will be the primary source of attacking width for Barcelona.
Sergio Busquets will hold down the fort in the centre of the park for the hosts, allowing the forward-thinking Frenkie de Jong and Pedri to push forward and impact the proceedings in the attacking third. Youngster Ilaix Moriba, who has seen a lot of game-time of late, should get more minutes from the bench.
Ousmane Dembele has looked sharp playing alongside Barcelona captain Lionel Messi as part of the two-pronged attack. The duo should resume their partnership on Monday night, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite being options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Lenglet, Araujo; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Firpo; Dembele, Messi
Huesca, meanwhile, are once again likely to be without the services of Gaston Silva, Luisinho and Pedro Mosquera for their trip to Camp Nou. Like his Barcelona counterpart, Pacheta, too, is expected to set his team up in a variant of 3-5-2 setup, although it will take the shape of 5-3-2 more often than not, with Huesca likely to sit deep and hit the hosts on the counter.
📽 | Pacheta, en la previa del duelo en el Camp Nou.
🗣 "No creo que sea misión imposible ganar el #BarçaHuesca El fútbol a veces depende de un detalle".
🗣 "El escudo se honra con sacrificio y lo estamos demostrando".#AquíNoSeRebla 👊🔵🔴
— SD Huesca (@SDHuesca) March 14, 2021
Alvaro Fernandez is the obvious choice in goal for the bottom feeders, with the three-man backline of Jorge Pulido, Dimitrios Siovas, who scored in the last game, and Pablo Insua shielding him against the threat posed by Lionel Messi & co. Pablo Maffeo and Javi Galan ought to be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
36-year-old Mikel Rico will anchor the midfield for Huesca, with the support of Jaime Seoane, who will look to try and keep a lid on the influence of the Barcelona midfielders. David Ferreiro will take up the attacking midfield slot from where he will look to pose a threat to the hosts’ defence with his direct approach.
The leading goalscorer for the season, Rafa Mir, is a certain starter in attack with the Portuguese likely to be partnered by Dani Escriche while the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Javi Ontiveros are also possible options for the manager to consider.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Fernandez; Pulido, Siovas, Insua; Maffeo, Seoane, Rico, Galan; Ferreiro; Mir, Escriche
- Barcelona are unbeaten in all of their five matches against Huesca across all competitions (W4 D1).
- Huesca have won just one of their last 20 away games in La Liga – a 3-1 win over Real Valladolid in January (D10 L9).
- Barcelona have gone 16 games unbeaten in La Liga (W13 D3) – the longest such run for any team across Europe’s top five leagues.
- Rafa Mir has scored seven goals in la Liga this season, in the process becoming Huesca’s second all-time top-scorer in the top-flight behind Chimy Avila. He has scored three of Huesca’s last four away goals in the competition.
- Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches in La Liga.
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💡 If Lionel Messi plays against Huesca on Monday, he will equal Xavi's record of most appearances in the history of FC Barcelona (767). pic.twitter.com/zAHKvEWJbX
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) March 13, 2021
For Barcelona to be able o stay alive in the race for the La Liga title and stand a chance of winning it at the end of the season, they need their captain and talisman, Lionel Messi firing on all cylinders. The 33-year-old is the leading goalscorer in La Liga this term with 19 strikes to his name already.
Messi also enjoys an impressive record against Huesca, having been directly involved in five goals in his two La Liga appearances against the minnows (two goals, three assists).
Monday’s game will mark a historic occasion for the Argentine as he will be making his 767th appearance for Barcelona, taking him level with Xavi as the most-capped Barcelona player ever. And, he will be aiming to celebrate the occasion with a match-winning display against Huesca.
Barcelona 2-0 Huesca
Huesca, despite their plight at the bottom of the table, have shown some fight to avoid the drop. However, on Monday, they will be up against a Barcelona side that is unbeaten in 16 league outings and will be itching to bounce back strongly after their UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of PSG earlier this week.
The Hard Tackle expects the Catalans to pick up another victory and move back into second place while making it four clean sheets in a row in La Liga.