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Ever since explorers and scientists began recording their discoveries and observations millennia ago, untold millions of plant and animal species, and other forms have life, have been meticulously catalogued in a never-ending pursuit to learn more about the enigmatic world in which we live. Now, there’s one more revelation that can be added to the list of previously unseen phenomena—a La Liga derby between fellow Catalan clubs FC Barcelona and Girona FC.
So grab your microscope or magnifying glass—although a TV will do just fine—and enjoy a match that fans on both sides have been eagerly anticipating for decades.
With Barça set to play its fifth match in a 15-day span, and with another midweek tilt set for next week in the Champions League, there was plenty of speculation about who would crack the squad for the trip to Girona. Not available will be the 20-year-old French striker, Ousmane Dembélé, who had successful surgery earlier in the week and will be out for around three and a half months. Likely to return to the starting XI, however, is Luis Suárez, who rested during Barça’s 6–1 win over Eibar on Tuesday night at Camp Nou.
Here’s the squad list as announced by the coaching staff on Friday:
Goalkeepers Marc-André Ter Stegen and Jasper Cillessen; Defenders Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Lucas Digne, Aleix Vidal, and Samuel Umtiti; Midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Denis Suárez, Andrés Iniesta, Paulinho, Sergi Roberto, and André Gomes; Strikers Luis Suárez, Leo Messi, and Paco Alcácer.
What the coaches are saying
Among the slew of topics addressed by the managers in their pregame press conferences, both Barça head coach Ernesto Valverde and his counterpart, the Girona boss Pablo Machín, spoke in terms of the historic nature of Saturday’s unprecedented encounter.
“[Girona] was just promoted to the top flight,” Valverde said. “And not only do they want to stay, they want to play well. So we have to be careful. But regardless of the festive atmosphere surrounding the game, these are three fundamental points right now.”
Machín, however, was all about perspective. “The first thing we should do is congratulate ourselves,” he said. “Where we are right now is an achievement in and of itself. Not long ago, it would have been something unimaginable.”
Girona, 15th place, (1-2-2): D-W-L-L-D
Barça, 1st place, (5-0-0): W-W-W-W-W
Stats and such
Barça…has now won 12 straight La Liga games in a row dating back to last season and a win at Girona will see it equal a 13-game streak attained in October of 2013…Barça has won all five league games so far this season…The last time Barça won six straight to open the season was in 2013/14, when it finished the campaign in second place…Leo Messi leads La Liga in scoring with nine goals through five games, which is the best start of his career…Luis Suárez has scored against 23 of the 24 teams he has faced in La Liga, racking up a total of 86 goals in the process. Suárez, however, has yet to score on Málaga and has yet to face Girona…
Girona…is playing its first Catalan derby since being promoted to the Spanish top flight this season…Forward Cristhian Stuani has scored two of Girona’s three goals in La Liga this season. Curiously, both were headers and both came in the first half…Girona has won, drawn, and lost in its three home games thus far…On Saturday, Girona could become the 36th La Liga team to concede a goal to Messi…
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