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It all started last Sunday, when FC Barcelona jetted down to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spanish region of Andalusia, where they brushed aside Granada, 4–1 (Highlights, Match Report). Then, back at Camp Nou on Wednesday night, the Catalans scored the game’s only three goals in an eight-minute span to make quick work of another Andalusian side, Sevilla (Highlights, Match Report).
Now, on Saturday, Barça head back down south, this time to the Mediterranean beachside city of Málaga in search of their third straight win over an andaluz team this week. Three points will allow Barça to either keep pace with, or overtake, leaders Real Madrid, who host cross-city rivals Atlético in much-anticipated derby earlier Saturday.
The Barça–Málaga game kicks off at the Estadio La Rosaleda at 8.45pm CET.
Precluded from the squad that will fly south on Saturday morning are center back Gerard Piqué and midfielder Ivan Rakitic, both of whom will be serving one-game bans after drawing their sixth yellow cards in the win over Sevilla. Two other midfielders will be out with injuries–Rafinha hurt his right meniscus in the Granada game and will be out four months after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Friday, and Arda Turan is nursing a strained right adductor he picked up on international duty in late March.
Hence, the following squad was announced:
Goalkeepers: Marc-André ter Stegen, Jasper Cillessen
Defenders: Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Lucas Digne, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Jérémy Mathieu
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Denis Suárez, Andrés Iniesta, André Gomes, Carles Aleñá, Álex Carbonell
In his pre-game press conference on Friday at midday, manager Luis Enrique Martínez largely evaded the inevitable queries about upcoming mega-matches—like Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Juventus and the coming April 23rd El Clásico at Real Madrid—and instead maintained a laser-like focus on what he considered was the only one that currently mattered: Málaga.
“The league title passes through Málaga,” he said. “We have to focus on what we can control, and the only thing that's clear is that if we don't win in Malaga, and our direct rivals do, it will make everything else much more difficult.”
In addition to going for a three-game sweep over southern Spain’s finest this week alone, FC Barcelona are looking for their fourth consecutive triumph in La Liga. The week before Barça’s Andalusian triple dip, they easily dispatched Valencia at Camp Nou, 4–2 (Highlights, Match Report). All that leaves Barça in second place in the La Liga standings, just two points behind the leaders.
Málaga, on the other hand, are in 15th place, and are coming off a 1–0 victory at Sporting midweek. It was their first triumph since February 20th, and it snapped a six-game winless skid that saw them rack up five losses to go with a single draw. That said, they are still eight points clear of the relegation zone and, for now, are not in any imminent danger.
Players to Watch
For Barça, Messi (27 goals) and Luis Suárez (24) continue to extend their lead as the top two scorers in La Liga. Málaga’s top goalscorer is Sandro Ramírez (8 goals), who, curiously, spent four seasons in the Barça youth academy, two seasons with the reserve squad, and then two more seasons with the first team, before signing with Málaga in the summer of 2016.
In their first meeting this season, back on November 19th, Barça and Málaga played to a scoreless stalemate at Camp Nou (Highlights below, Match Report). And while Los Boquerones have been rather stingy in Barcelona in recent years—winning and losing by the minimum in the two seasons prior to this one—they have been similarly resistant at La Rosaleda. Barça won there, 1–0, in Week 2 of the 2013/14 season; drew, 0–0, in Week 5 of the 2014/15 season; and won, 2–1, in Week 21 last season.
Worldwide TV Coverage
No matter where you are in the world, you can watch the game live on TV. You can also listen to live play-by-play streamed in English on Radio Barça, as well as follow our exclusive, minute-by-minute updates on FC Barcelona's official English language Twitter account as the action unfolds. Don't miss it!
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