Barcelona will be aiming to make it three wins in three games in 2022 when they travel to Andalusia to take on Granada in La Liga on Saturday evening.

La Liga action resumes this weekend in Spain after a round of Copa del Rey fixtures in midweek, and Barcelona will be raring to continue their upward surge in the table when they lock horns with Granada at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on Saturday.

Barcelona have made a solid start to the new year, beating RCD Mallorca 1-0 in their first game of 2022 last weekend. That was followed by a 2-1 comeback victory over lower league outfit Linares Deportivo earlier this week, which has now meant that the Catalans are unbeaten in their last five matches in domestic competitions.

Having cut down the gap to fourth-placed Atletico Madrid to just one point, Xavi Hernandez’s side will be aiming to go past the La Liga champions, who will be in action on Sunday. However, they will be up against a Granada side that has proven to be hard to beat in recent weeks.

Indeed, Roberto Moreno’s men are unbeaten in their last six matches in La Liga – a run that includes a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid. However, they began the new year with a goalless draw against Elche away from home, leaving them in 13th place in the standings. The Nazaries will be aiming to get a positive result on Saturday when Barcelona come to visit.

Granada came very close to beating Barcelona in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou, having taken the lead just two minutes into the game, only to see Ronald Araujo equalise in the 90th minute to end up sharing the spoils. Ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Granada

German Sanchez, Alberto Soro and Ruben Rochina miss out for the home team due to Covid, while Neyder Lozano and Santiago Arias are unavailable due to injuries. Barcelona winger Alex Collado joined Granada on loan on Friday and will be unavailable for selection for the weekend encounter.

Robert Moreno has largely preferred to set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation this season. However, he could revert to the 4-5-1 setup he used in the reverse fixture to add another body in the middle of the park, which will come in handy to quell the threat carried by the likes of Gavi and Nico Gonzalez.

Luis Maximiano will man the goal for the home team as usual, where he will be shielded by the back four comprising Quini, Domingos Duarte, Raul Torrente and Carlos Neva. The full-backs, Quini and Neva, will stay tight and compact at the back and look to deny spaces for the Barcelona wide forwards to exploit.

Maxime Gonalons will hold down the fort in the middle of the park for the Nazaries. He will have support from Luis Milla while Yan Brice Eteki provides the legs in the engine room, although Moreno could also call upon former La Masia prospect Monchu. Antonio Puertas and Darwin Machis will act as the primary attacking outlets for Granada from the flanks and look to fashion chances for 39-year-old top-scorer Jorge Molina.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Maximiano; Quini, Duarte, Torrente, Neva; Puertas, Milla, Gonalons, Eteki, Machis; Molina

Barcelona

Ansu Fati will not be rushed back by Xavi Hernandez even though he is back in training. The same could hold true for Memphis Depay and Pedri. There is some good news for Barcelona as Ez Abde, Sergino Dest, Alejandro Balde and Gavi have tested negative for coronavirus. However, Ronald Araujo is ruled out for the foreseeable future after picking up an injury in midweek.

Frenkie de Jong is also unavailable due to the muscle injury he picked up against Linares Deportivo. Sergi Roberto and Martin Braithwaite are also among the absentees, while January signing Ferran Torres is yet to be registered and has tested positive for coronavirus.

Having rung in the changes for the midweek clash, Xavi will revert to his preferred 4-3-3 formation on Saturday in front of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who was key in the 1-0 win over Mallorca. Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia ought to form the centre-back pairing in Araujo’s absence while Oscar Mingueza and Jordi Alba take up the full-back slots, with Dani Alves likely to be an option from the bench.

Captain Sergio Busquets will anchor the midfield as usual for the Blaugrana. He will be partnered by Nico Gonzalez and the returning Gavi in the middle of the park, with the onus of providing the forward thrust on the shoulders of the teenage duo.

Luuk de Jong, who missed the cup tie due to suspension, should line up as the No. 9 after scoring the winner against Mallorca. Contract rebel Ousmane Dembele, who was on target against Linares, ought to line up on the right flank, with Ferran Jutgla likely to get the nod on the left wing.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Garcia, Alba; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; Dembele, L. de Jong, Jutgla

Key Stats

  • Barcelona are unbeaten in their last five away matches in La Liga.
  • Granada have won each of their previous three home games in La Liga.
  • Barcelona have won eight of their last ten away fixtures against Granada in La Liga (L2).
  • Granada have not lost in their previous two encounters against Barcelona in La Liga (W1 D1).
  • Barcelona have scored the most headed goals in La Liga this season (7), with three of their last five strikes coming from headed efforts.

Player to Watch

Ousmane Dembele

Despite having stirred up the pot by refusing to sign a new contract with Barcelona, Dembele continues to be a part of Xavi Hernandez’s plans, even though there have been calls to exile him till the end of the season when his contract expires. And the 24-year-old Frenchman repaid the manager’s faith in him with an important goal in midweek that started the comeback against Linares.

Even as speculation continues to mount over his future, the manager has backed the former Borussia Dortmund man to continue playing a key role in the side. On Saturday, Dembele will have the responsibility of breaking open the tough Granada defence with his speed, directness and trickery on the ball.

Prediction

Granada 1-2 Barcelona

Granada have corrected their course after a poor start to the season and put together a solid run of results, including crucial wins against Mallorca and Atletico Madrid. Robert Moreno’s men are particularly hard to break down at home, and Barcelona will have their task cut out on Saturday.

However, the return of Gavi and the recent form of Ousmane Dembele and Ferran Jutgla should provide the visitors with the requisite tools to carve out openings and pick up three points in Andalusia this weekend.

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