Match Preview: FC Barcelona v Málaga
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Barça are back in action some 13 days after their exhilarating away win over Sevilla at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán as La Liga gets back into gear following the recent break for international fixtures. The visitors are Andalusian club Málaga, coached by former Real Madrid and Sevilla boss Juande Ramos, now in his second spell in charge of Saturday’s visitors to Camp Nou.
The good news for blaugrana boss Luis Enrique is that the treatment room is slowly but surely emptying out. This week Gerard Piqué, Jérémy Mathieu and Jordi Alba all returned to training are could well be in consideration for a place in the squad. Andrés Iniesta is progressing well from his knee injury but will not be available for the visit of Málaga. Samuel Umtiti will also be out after picking up an injury on international duty as will Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez who is suspended. Finally, the Asturian coach has left Jordi Masip out.
The final matchday squad in full is: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda Turan, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Marlon.
Málaga boss Ramos has his fair share of selection headaches too with Weligton, Keko, Recio and Charles all still missing due to injury. Midfield man Ignacio Camacho misses out due to suspension but Diego Llorente returns to the 18 man squad named on Friday after a spell out with injury.
In his traditional pre-game press conference Barça coach Luis Enrique revealed the name of one player who will be in the starting line-up against Málaga: "This is a great chance for Paco Alcácer, and he’ll be starting tomorrow. But his aim is not just to score goals, but to help the team to win, and I’m sure he’ll have a great game."
He continued: “Málaga have hit on their best run of form since the league started, so they’ll be buzzing with confidence.”
Juande Ramos also faced the press on Friday and admitted the task facing his side is even greater than that of their last away game when they lost 4-2 in the Calderón against Atlético: “With respect to the danger of our opponents, it’s enormous, as big or bigger than Atlético Madrid. We know they are going to demand a lot of us and that we will have to work very hard. I hope that we don’t make the mistakes we made against Atlético that cost us the game. I can see my players really focused.”
Barça have won their last four in the league and find themselves in second place in the table, just two points behind leaders Real Madrid. Saturday’s opponents Málaga have lost just one of their last five matches in La Liga, a run which has lifted them to 10th place in the table. However, Juande Ramos’ team are yet to win on the road this season, having failed to win any of their last eight away fixtures in the league.
Málaga have won just twice in 15 visits to Camp Nou, the most recent coming two seasons ago when Juanmi’s goal gave them a 1-0 win against the blaugranes. Barça have won 13 of those 15 league encounters against the Andalusians in the league with Leo Messi scoring successive hat-tricks in victories in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
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