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It is top against bottom in the league on Saturday with leaders Barça taking on a Córdoba side who currently prop up the table in La Liga as 64 points currently separate the two clubs. The blaugranes need the win to stay at least two points clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid in the race for the league title. The home side, in contrast, are in deep trouble, some nine points from safety with just five games of the league season remaining. So, there is plenty at stake for both clubs in the game that kicks off at 4.00pm CET in the Nuevo Arcángel Stadium.
Luis Enrque’s side trained for the final time on Friday before their trip to Andalusia to take on Córdoba. With his entire squad available after Jordi Alba’s return after suspension, the Barça coach was spoilt for choice. That is music to the ears of the Asturian as the team moves into the final decisive weeks of the season still in with a shout in all three competitions. Following the session the team headed off to the airport for the trip down to the South of Spain with Douglas, Masip, Montoya, Sergi Roberto and Vermaelen the players left behind in Barcelona. The 18 man squad thus is as follows: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Alves, Alba, Bartra, Adriano, Mascherano, Mathieu, Piqué, Sergio, Rafinha, Rakitic, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suárez.
Córdoba coach José Antonio Romero welcomes back Romanian striker Florin Andone to the squad after he served a one game ban in the Andalusians 1-0 defeat at Levante in midweek. Romero only has centre back Iago Bouzón out through injury with the former Celta defender unlikely to play again this season. The club’s third coach of the current season has named all his available players for the visit of Barça, including former Barça man Edu Campabadal.
Barça boss Luis Enrique appeared before the press on Friday in the traditional pre-game press conference. The former blaugrana player refused to be worried about his side’s rivals for the league title: “If we win all our games then it does not matter what our opponents do. What matters to me is that we can keep winning.” The coach also warned that Córdoba might feel as though the pressure is off with the club almost certain to be relegated straight back to the Second Division: “They are in big trouble and that can have a liberating effect. I am convinced it will be tough.”
José Antonio Romero is Córdoba’s third coach of the season following the dismissals of first Albert Ferrer and then Miroslav Djukic. The former Barça defender Ferrer was shown the door after failing to win in the first seven games of the season. His replacement, former Valencia coach Djukic, suffered the same fate after eight straight league defeats. Romero has picked up just two points in his seven league games in charge, yet despite his side’s precarious position and the quality of Saturday’s visitors, he was upbeat in his pre-game press conference: “We have respect for them [Barça] and appreciation but we are not afraid. It’s 90 minutes and we have to go into the game looking forward to it.”
The blaugranes made it nine victories in their last 10 games in the league with a superlative 6-0 victory over Getafe at Camp Nou on Tuesday. A wonderful ‘Panenka’ penalty from Leo Messi opened the floodgates and with Luis Suárez and Neymar both also amongst the goals, Barça’s famous front three moved past a century of goals for the season. It was the tenth time that Luis Enrique’s team have scored five or more goals in the league this season.
Córdoba have picked up just 20 points in total after 34 league games this season on their return to the top flight. The Andalusians have won just three times in La Liga and just once at home in the Nuevo Arcángel. Their last victory came back on 12 January away at Rayo with their only win at home having come the week before against Granada. Romero’s side are currently on a run of 17 games without a win, in which time they have picked up just two points.
Córdoba gained promotion last season after an absence of more than 40 years from the Spanish top flight. The last time Barça visited the Andalusian city in the league was back in the season 1971/72 when a 1-0 defeat in the second to last game of the season dashed the title hopes of a blaugrana side coached by the legendary Rinus Michels. In total, Barça have won on four of their eight visits in the league, drawing once and losing on three occasions. Their most recent visit to the Nuevo Arcángel came in the Spanish Cup in December 2012. Two goals from Leo Messi gave Barça a 2-0 win at Córdoba with the blaugranes winning 5-0 in the second leg. Barça recorded another 5-0 victory when the two sides met in the league earlier this season at Camp Nou.
No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. And remember, you can enjoy live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The link will appear at fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.
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