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After two successive encounters against city rivals Espanyol, the 0-0 draw last weekend away in the league and the 4-1 win at home in midweek in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie, Barça are back in league action with the visit of Granada. The Andalusians come to Camp Nou for the 4.00pm CET kick off on Saturday just two points above the relegation zone in 17th place in the table. The blaugranes, in contrast, are in second place two points behind leaders Atlético Madrid with an all important game in hand.
Luis Enrique’s squad trained for the final time on Friday before the date with Granada. The definitive eighteen was announced on Saturday morning, and is as follows Ter Stegen, Bravo, Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Arda, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Jordi Alba, Sandro, S. Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.
So there are no places for any of Masip, Douglas, Mascherano, Bartra and Munir, in addition to the injured Rafinha.
Sergi Roberto is the main change with respect to the previous selection, after being given medical clearance on the morning of the match. For both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, this is their first inclusion in a league squad since joining FC Barcelona.
Granada boss José Ramón Sandoval named his squad following his team’s final training session on Friday before heading to Barcelona. French defender Dimitri Foulquier is a last minute absence due to ‘flu but the Andalusians are boosted by the return of Italian full back Cristian Biraghi after suspension to a list that also includes former Barça men Rubén Rochina and David Lombán.
Luis Enrique made an appearance in front of the press on Friday following his side’s final training session. As usual the Barça boss made no bones about the task facing his side. “Granada need points, and that makes them more dangerous,” he said. “They’re physically strong and they work hard. They are on the upswing after a positive result against Sevilla, with the need for points, with good football players and good players on attack that can create problems in the transition game.”
Granada coach Sandoval also did not mince his words. “Stopping Barça is difficult but not impossible,” he revealed before adding, “you can only beat Barça by playing with intensity.” The former Rayo and Sporting boss also added that if his side are not at the level of their performance last weekend when they beat Sevilla, then they would be in trouble.
Barça got back to winning ways in the league just before New Year with a 4-0 victory at home over Betis. Luis Enrique’s team have won eight of their last nine games at Camp Nou in the league, the only blot on the landscape being the recent 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruña.
Granada managed just one win in their opening 10 league games, however, since then they have recovered slightly with two wins in their last four games in La Liga lifting them out of the relegation zone. Nevertheless, Sandoval’s team are coming off the back of a heavy 4-0 defeat in midweek against Valencia in the first leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie.
Barça have won all of their 21 league encounters at home against Granada, the most recent coming last season when a Neymar hat-trick, two goals from Messi and a goal from Rakitic gave the blaugranes a 6-0 win. The home side have scored 17 goals in their last four home games against the Andalusians, beginning with an historic 5-3 win in 2012 in which Leo Messi’s hat trick allowed him to move past César as the Club’s top goalscorer in the league.
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