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FC Barcelona have got 2022 off to a fine start. After beating Mallorca 1-0 to fly up to fifth in the Liga table, they also defeated Linares to reach the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, where they have just learned that they’ll be travelling to Bilbao in late January.
The Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia is just around the corner, but before that there is yet another away trip to come, and it’s to Granada on Saturday at 6.30pm CET.
The Andalusians got off to a slow start in La Liga, but their form has very much improved of late and they’ve left the relegation spots far behind them on their climb up to 13th place in the table.
It’s a fixture that Barça typically dominate. In the last decade they have scored four or more goals against Granada on six different occasions. But there have also been some slips. They lost 2-0 at Los Cármenes in 2019, and were stunned by a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou in April of last year and were held to a 1-1 draw when the teams met in Barcelona earlier this season.
So this game will be a big test for an FC Barcelona team that has been rapidly improving under Xavi Hernández, but that needs to keep collecting points in threes in order to at least get into the all-important top four places in the Liga table.
Last five meetings
20/09/21 (LIGA) Barça 1-1 Granada
29/04/21 (LIGA) Barça 1-2 Granada
03/02/21 (COPA) Granada 3-5 Barça
09/01/21 (LIGA) Granada 0-4 Barça
19/01/20 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Granada
“Every week is important. The game with Linares was also crucial. Every game is. Tomorrow is crucial to keep moving up the table. So my thoughts are fully on Granada, we’re not thinking about Real Madrid yet.”
“Barça must never lose but it can happen. Granada are a strong side with a brilliant coach. I have fond memories of playing under Robert Moreno when we won the treble. All the staff back then were wonderful.”
“We’ll see in the next few games but I’m optimistic about what I’ve seen so far. Bayern Munich is the only team we’ve played that was better than us.
As announced on Friday, Philippe Coutinho has left the club on loan to Aston Villa. Xavi told his pre-match press conference that Memphis will be able to make his comeback on Saturday. However, following a hand operation, Ronald Araujo is out and is also likely to miss the Super Cup. After playing (and impressing) against Linares in the cup, Dani Alves is now in line to make his Liga comeback.
On Friday it was also announced that Sergiño Dest, Gavi and Alejandro Balde all tested negative for Covid-19 and are available again.
Ansu Fati’s return, meanwhile, is being reserved. The coach insists that this is not because he is more focused on the Real Madrid game, but because the youngster’s still not quite ready to play but should be OK for the trip to Saudi Arabia.
Also unavailable are Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, Martin Braithwaite and Ferran Torres.
Barça could also find themselves playing against Alex Collado, who has just been loaned from FC Barcelona to Granada. “I hope he can play” says Xavi. “He’s very talented and it would be a shame for him not to play for bureaucratic reasons.”
Did you know?
Granada are looking to go three league games without defeat to FC Barcelona for the first time ever.
Granada are also looking equal their longest ever run without defeat in La Liga, which is seven games. The last time they did that was way back in 1969.
Look out for long shots! Granada have scored more goals (8) from outside the box than any other team in La Liga.
Xavi faced Granada five times as a player and not only did he win every time, but he also scored three goals.
Granada coach Robert Moreno was for many years associated to Luis Enrique, serving as his assistant at Roma, Celta, Barça (2014-17) and for the Spanish national team.
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