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It’s been a lively week at FC Barcelona. Following the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setién has been unveiled as the new first team manager. After spending the week settling into the club and getting to know his players, Sunday (Camp Nou, 9.00pm CET) brings the big moment, his first game.
The visitors are newly promoted Granada. The Andalusian club got off to a tremendous start in La Liga, and were the surprise package among the frontrunners for the first two months or so, including an impressive 2-0 defeat of Barça at Los Cármenes. But their results have taken a turn for the worse since then, and the odds are stacked against them at a stadium where they have never won, or even drawn, before.
Unlike his predecessor, Setién prefers to wait until the morning of the match to name his squad. What we do know, however, is that Frenkie de Jong will not be featuring (he is serving a suspension after getting sent off in the 2-2 draw with Espanyol) and Luis Sánchez will be out through injury for the next four months or so.
With Ousmane Dembélé also side-lined, Setién will need to work his way around the absences of two key members of his attack.
The good news is that both goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and midfielder Arthur Melo have both been training with the team this week and could well be available for selection.
Setién didn’t give too much away at his pre-match press conference, but did suggest that we should prepare to be surprised by some of his team selections, insisting that he would never pick a player on name alone.
Riqui Puig, Ronald Araujo and Abel Ruiz of Barça B have all been training with the first team this week, as did Ansu Fati. Though Setién insisted that that does not mean any of them are part of his plans for tomorrow, they are certainly likely to get chances as the season progresses.
If Barça win, they will set a new Liga record of 24 consecutive home wins against the same opponent. The current record of 23 has been achieved twice, both times by Barça (against Granada and Real Sociedad).
Barça have scored 17 goals and conceded none in their last five games at home to Granada.
Watch out for set pieces. Barça and Granada lead the league in such goals with 11 each (a massive 44% of Granada’s goals have come from dead ball situations).
Lionel Messi has scored 11 goals in 11 games against Granada, eight of them at Camp Nou (including two hat-tricks).
Granada are the only club in La Liga with a 100% win rate after scoring first. They’ve held on eight times out of eight after claiming the opening goal.
Víctor Díaz has not scored for Granada this season, but he could be the man to stop. He’s created 19 chances this season, the same as Luis Suárez and only topped by Messi in the Barça squad (33). And five of those chances have led to goals.
Last five games
Barça 2 Atlético Madrid 3 (SUPER CUP)
Espanyol 2 Barça 2
Barça 4 Alavés 1
Barça 0 Real Madrid 0
Real Sociedad 2 Barça 2
Tamaraceite 0 Granada 1 (COPA)
Granada 1 Mallorca 0
Eibar 3 Granada 0
Hospitalet 2 Granada 3 (COPA)
Granada 1 Levante 2
Real Madrid moved three points of clear of Barça, at least temporarily, with a 2-1 defeat of fourth placed Sevilla on Saturday. Third placed Atlético Madrid suffered an unexpected 2-0 defeat away to Eibar.
Barça manager Quique Setién: “I don’t want us to be over-excited. I’d rather see the team putting into practice what we’ve been working on this week, although these aren’t things that’ll happen overnight … Granada will want to repeat their performance earlier in the season. And they might play just as well. I always tell my teams to expect their opponents to be at their very best.”
Granada manager Diego Martínez: “Every coach has his ideas but Barça need no introduction. They’re one of the best teams in the world and although [Setién] might change some positions and vary a few things, the essence is always going to be the same.”
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