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Saturday brings a game with a difference to the Camp Nou. The 8.45pm CET kick-off brings the first ever visit of fellow Catalan club Girona to the stadium, as Barça look to consolidate their 7-point lead in the first of three league fixtures in just eight days (TICKETS HERE).
The Barça squad reads as follows: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Dembelé, Cillessen, Coutinho, Paulinho, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Vermalen.
That means no places this weekend for Yerry Mina, Paco Alcácer, Denis Suárez or André Gomes.
Other than Pablo Alcalà, out with a long-term ankle injury, Girona have a fully fit squad.
At his pre-match conference on Friday, Ernesto Valverde spoke very highly indeed of Girona, who he does not expect to take a caution-first attitude considering their more-than-comfortable position in the top half of the Liga table.
He also compared Pablo Machín’s side to Chelsea, which the Girona boss took as a compliment. “That means we’ve put ourselves on the first division map” he said.
“If other teams have won at the Camp Nou, then we can too” he added. “But we’ll need to play an excellent game and they’ll need to have an off-day.”
Seven points clear at the top of the table, Barça could set a new club record of 32 Liga games without defeat.
Girona, meanwhile, are very much the surprise package of the competition. Playing in the top flight for the first time ever, they are currently eighth and a Europa League berth is not entirely out of the question.
However, they haven’t won on the road since December 11 – in the other Catalan derby at the home of Espanyol.
Barça’s 3-0 win at Montilivi earlier this season was the first ever competitive meeting between the teams. Luis Suárez scored the third following two own goals.
But the neighbourly friendship goes much further back. In 1922, Barça were the guests for the inauguration of Girona’s original ground, Camp de Vista Alegre, they were back in the city to help open their current stadium, Montilivi, in 1970 and also played at the club’s 75th anniversary.
Of course a large number of Girona fans are Barça supporters that also follow their local team. And a lot of Barça fans have developed quite of a soft spot this season for their compatriots in red-and-white. Like we said, this is going to be a game with a difference…
This match will be essential TV viewing but if you are unable to see it for whatever reason, then why not treat yourself to our live English language commentary on Radio Barça? The link will appear on our home page shortly before kick-off.
Oh, and don’t forget that you will find live updates on all the action via our Twitter account. Força Barça!
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