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Saturday (8.45pm CET) brings the 1,500th competitive game at the Camp Nou. Third placed FC Barcelona host rock-bottom Granada CF, who have yet to win a game this season and have lost on all 22 of their previous visits to the stadium. But although history very much stacks the odds in their favour, the Catalans have a number of injury problems to contend with.
The treatment list is so long that Barça have had to draft in reserves just to concoct a regulation squad of 18. In defence, Aleix Vidal, Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué and Jeremy Mathieu are all nursing troubles, so Marlon Santos and/or Nili of the B team have been called in as cover.
But the team does welcome back Rafinha and Jasper Cillessen, who are included in the following squad: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis Suárez, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Umtiti, Aleñá, Nili and Marlon.
Granada will be without goalkeeper Ivan Kelava plus French and Uruguayan defenders Dimitri Foulquier and Gastón Silva, but it looks like Brazilian full-back Gabriel Silva will be ready on time.
There are plenty of familiar faces to look out for in the visiting side. Goalkeeper Oier Olazábal, defender David Lombán and midfielders Jon Toral and Isaac Cuenca all spent time at FCB in the past, while Sergi Samper is currently on loan to the Andalusian club. Cuenca, when asked this week about his return, promised that although he wouldn’t celebrate if he scored, “to get out of this situation, I’ll take a goal against anyone.”
Barça manager Luis Enrique refuses to use his injuries as an excuse, insisting that “with the squad we have, I can’t see us having any problem winning games.” The greater difficulty he has faced in preparing for this game is that “because they have changed manager, we have fewer games to look at to see what they can do … But we’re playing at home and we’ll try to control the ball and create as many chances as possible.”
His counterpart Lucas Alcaraz, who has only been in the job for three weeks, admits that “even the biggest teams play different at the Camp Nou to what they would do normally. All we can do is focus on ourselves and on doing the things that we do well.”
Barça have had a few bumps of late, but back-to-back 4-0 wins at home to Deportivo and Manchester City and a spectacular fight-back to beast Valencia 3-2 last week means things are very much on track at home and in Europe.
Things aren’t so pretty for Granada. Last week’s 0-0 draw at home to Sporting earned their first point under Alcaraz, but after nine league fixtures, they are still looking for their first win.
Granada have never even managed a draw at the Camp Nou and their last four visits have produced a combined total of 16 goals for FCB and none for Los Nazaríes, including a 4-0 win for the Blaugrana last term,
And watch out for Leo Messi, who has scored six times in the last four games with Granada, and also for Luis Suárez, who netted a hat-trick in the 3-0 win at Los Cármenes on the final day of last season – thus making sure of Barça’s 24th Liga title.
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