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Following the terrific Champions League win at Manchester City midweek, Barça now travel to relegation-threatened Granada in La Liga (Saturday 4.00pm CET), where they’ll be keen to make up for last weekend’s disappointing home defeat to Málaga.
Luis Enrique named his squad of eighteen on Friday evening. Gerard Piqué is suspended after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season last week, and although Douglas has been declared fully fit, he misses out on a place along with Masip and Sergi Roberto.
After a feisty game with Levante on Monday, Granada are missing defender Insúa plus strikers Adrán Colunga and El Arabi through suspension. To further their troubles, Jeison Murillo and Piti are out injured.
Barça manager Luis Enrique has often commented on his concern about facing teams that are battling for first division survival, and Granada are one of those. “Sometimes you expect one kind of game and you get another” he told his Friday press conference. “We are up against a side in dire need of points and they’ll make things hard for us.” On the afternoon kick-off, he added that “we have played five games at 4 o’clock and won three, drawn one and lost one. I don’t think that’s bad record, but it could be better.”
Granada coach Abel Resino told the press that “I see no reason why we can’t win. Beating the best team in the world in recent years is an attraction for us and we’ll be doing our very best to do that … What a small team has to do against Barça is try to surprise them with speed.”
Barça responded to defeat at Real Sociedad at the start of the year with a run of six consecutive victories in the league, scoring an incredible 26 goals in the process and closing the gap on leaders Real Madrid to just one point. But last weekend the Catalans were stunned by 1-0 defeat at home to Málaga. Midweek victory at Manchester City in the Champions League was the ideal way to bounce back from that disappointment but now it’s time to get the Liga title challenge back on track.
Two wins and two draws were an excellent start to the season for Granada, but after that they were winless for 12 games. Manager Joaquín Caparrós was replaced by Abel Resino and seven new players were signed in the winter transfer window. This finally got the side back to winning ways against Elche (2-1), but five points from five matches under their new coach still leave the team just one point above bottom placed Cordoba.
Ones to watch
Sergio Busquets will be looking to celebrate the new extension to his contract, which ties the midfielder to the club until 2019. Luis Suárez scored both goals at the Etihad midweek, attracting praise all around the world for a stellar performance. On Saturday the Uruguayan will be keen to add to the four goals in his Liga account.
There’s a familiar face in the Granada goal. It’s Oier Olazábal, the Basque stopper who made 122 appearances for Barça B and spent six seasons as first team understudy to Victor Valdés and José Manuel Pinto.
Since Granada returned to the top flight after a 35 year absence in 2011, they had lost all of their meetings with FC Barcelona until last April, when a shock 1-0 win at Los Cármenes put a serious dent in Barça’s title bid. The solitary goal was scored by Yacine Brahimi, who has since left for Porto. When the sides met earlier this season, Barça won by an emphatic 6-0, with Neymar becoming the first Brazilian since Rivaldo in 2001 to score a Liga hat-trick for Barcelona. Messi (2) and Rakitic scored the others.
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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