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In the wake of a pair of successive clashes with Athletic Club Bilbao in La Liga and in the Copa del Rey — and with a third on tap this Wednesday night — FC Barcelona get a one-match respite from battling the Basques when they travel south to Spain’s Costa del Sol on Saturday afternoon to take on Málaga FC in Week 21 of league play. Kick-off at La Rosaleda is set for 4.00pm CET.
When play gets underway Saturday in Andalusia, Barça will be operating on less than 72 hours of rest following Wednesday’s win.
That night’s starters went through a recovery session on Thursday morning while the rest of the team commenced preparations for Málaga. On Friday afternoon the coaching staff held a full-team workout before authoring an 18 strong squad list and then shuffling off to Barcelona-El Prat Airport for an early evening departure.
Before Friday’s training session, FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enriquewas queried on a slew of matters pertaining to Saturday’s encounter with Málaga.
“They’ve caused us a lot of problems recently but we need to be focused to keep depending on ourselves at the top of the league table,” he said.
Málaga CF coach Javi Gracia also spoke to the media on Friday. He placed special emphasis on the challenge of facing such a high-powered side, while recognising that the true test is in finding a way to catch Barça off-guard. “Our job as the coaching team is to find those nuances that make the game different, and this difference will surprise them, which is what we’re working on,” he said.
FC Barcelona are unbeaten in their last four games on the road in La Liga. They are also riding a 23-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Barça’s last defeat was a 2–1 loss at Sevilla way back on 3 October. The Catalans are currently in second place with a game in hand due to a scheduling conflict stemming from their participation in last month’s FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Although Málaga have won three straight league games at their home stadium, La Rosaleda, they were defeated last week at Sevilla. Interestingly enough, like Barça back in October, Los Boquerones also fell in Seville by a score of 2–1. Málaga are currently in 10th place, nine points out of a slot in next season’s Europa League but just seven points above the relegation zone.
Recent encounters have been about as predictable as the weather — not very — with each side winning once by the minimum plus a scoreless draw in their last three clashes dating back to last season…In their first meeting this season, Barça downed Málaga 1–0 at Camp Nou on 29 August...Málaga haven’t beaten FC Barcelona at La Rosaleda since a 5–1 victory there in Week 14 of the 2003/2004 season…Curiously, that was the last time FCB conceded five goals in an official match…Since then, the Catalans are undefeated in Málaga, amassing six wins and two draws.
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