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Andalusia. The hottest and most southernmost region of the Iberian Peninsula, and perhaps the region that’s most in keeping with the typical image that outsiders have of Spain, with its flamenco, bullfighting, Moorish architecture and sun-soaked beaches.
And it’s a region that’s going to have a huge bearing on FC Barcelona’s activities over the next week or so, with visits to two of its best-known cities, Granada and Málaga, and a visit from Sevilla in between.
Granada v Barça (Sunday 2 at 8.45pm CET)
First up is the game at Los Cármenes this coming Sunday. The side managed by Lucas Alcaraz are currently 19th in the table, and after five close calls in recent seasons, are now in more serious danger than ever of going back down to the second division. There are two former Barça players, David Lombán and Isaac Cuenca, in the squad, as well as loanee Sergi Samper. Other dangermen to look out for are Colombian Adrián Ramos, who has recently arrived on loan from Dortmund, plus Moroccan international Mehdi Carcela-González and Brazilian Andreas Pereira (on loan from Man United).
Barça v Sevilla (Wednesday 5 at 7.30pm CET)
At least on paper, the toughest of the three fixtures is the one against the triple Europa League champions, but Barça do have home advantage for that one – in fact it’s their first chance to crack the 800 mark for Liga wins at Camp Nou. Sevilla have fallen six points behind Barça in the Liga race, and will see this as the opportunity to take three points to get back in contention. Luis Enrique will have other plans. Players to look out for in the visiting ranks include the sublimely skilful Vitolo, Montenegran goal-getter Stevan Jovetić, Manchester City loanee Samir Nasri, former Stoke City midfielder Steven N'Zonzi, ex Getafe man Pablo Sarabia, Brazilian defender Mariano and striker Wissam Ben Yedder who arrived from Toulouse last summer. (TICKETS HERE)
Málaga v Barça (Saturday 8 at 8.45pm CET)
The third league fixture in just six days is takes Barça down to the Costa del Sol and a date with Málaga, the last game before the Champions League quarter final first leg in Turin. Managed by former Real Madrid stalwart Míchel, the ‘anchovies’ are six points clear of the relegation zone as things stand, and are led in attack by a familiar face in FCB circles: Sandro. Others to keep an eye on include the midfield duo of Ignacio Camacho and Pablo Fornals and Venezuelan right-back Roberto Rosales, as well as two veterans of the European football scene in Argentinian defender Martín Demichelis and Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni.
In short, three gripping games to look forward to in the build-up to the biggest one of all – the UCL showdown with Juventus. Bring it on!
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