The defeat to Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night has left a feeling of doom and gloom in Barcelona but Tata Martino’s men must pick themselves up from the disappointment for a vital league match away at Granada (Saturday 8 pm). The pressure cooker may be about to explode but Barça have seven remaining games this season and if the team can win them all, the league and cup will be ours and the season will end up being a very successful one.
However the season ends, there are questions from Wednesday night that need to be addressed. Why, for example, does Cesc Fabregas always seem to fade at this stage of the season? And how is it possible that Leo Messi only managed to cover 6.8 km in 90 minutes, a distance most people could walk on a Sunday morning stroll! The defence was overrun in the first 20 minutes, and whether or not FIFA allow us to sign players this summer it is obvious we need some reinforcements.
Any changes in the squad will depend on events off the field. First, the club must try to overturn the transfer ban and then we’ll have to see who is charge of things next season. There is still a big doubt about the future of Tata Martino and according to the journalist Quique Guasch on last night’s Barça-based chat programme Efectivament on Catalan telly, Martino’s family have returned to Argentina leaving him on his own which is unlikely to make him a happy man. Added to this we have the story that Zubizaretta offered his resignation last week over the FIFA ban, while with the growing doubts about the legitimacy of the current board the possibility of presidential elections this summer can not be ruled out.
There’s no doubt that it hurt to watch today’s Champions League semi-final draw with no FC Barcelona ball in the bowl. However, we can only hope that the situation turns to our advantage as our rivals for La Liga, Real Madrid and Atlético, face tough ties against Bayern and Chelsea which may have a debilitating effect on their title challenge.
Whatever the two Madrid teams do, Barça must concentrate on their own games. For tomorrow’s fixture at Granada Martino has the added problem of Marc Bartra pulling out of the trip with a hamstring problem which with Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué still injured, leaves Barça seriously short at the back. It seems likely that Busquets, or possibly Adriano or Song, will fill in as an emergency centre-back alongside Javier Mascherano.
Granada still have a big fight on their hands to avoid going down. They are currently on 34 points, just three points above the relegation zone in 15th place. For tomorrow’s game coach Lucas Alcaraz is without the injured midfielder Riki and the suspended left-back Bryan Angulo but keeper Roberto Fernandez and midfielder Fran Rico have recovered from minor problems and Recio returns after missing last week’s 4-1 defeat at Malaga.
Barça have played Granada five times since the Andalucians returned to the top flight in 2011, winning all five. The most recent game in Granada was very close when two goals from Messi gave Barça a 1-2 win. Earlier this season when the sides met at Camp Nou Barça ran out easy 4-0 winners thanks to goals from Iniesta, Fabregas, Alexis and Pedro. There’s no room for any messing about tomorrow, we can’t afford another Valladolid. Given all the circumstances it could be very complicated.
Granada: Roberto, Karnezis, Nyom, Coeff, Murillo, Foulquier, Mainz, Ilori, Iturra, Fran Rico, Fatau, Recio, Brahimi, Bravo, El Arabi, Piti, Buonanotte, Ighalo, Succes.
Barça: Pinto, Oier, Montoya, Alves, Adriano, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Song, Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi, Alexis, Neymar, Tello.
Granada: Roberto; Nyom, Ilori, Murillo, Foulquier; Recio, Iturra, Fran Rico; Piti, El-Arabi, Brahimi.
Barça: Pinto; Alves, Busquets, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Song, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Neymar.
Prediction: Granada 1 Barça 3
Date: Saturday 12 April 2014. Kick-off 8 pm local time.