Luis Enrique seems likely to make changes to Barça’s line-up for tomorrow night’s game at La Rosaleda against Javi Gracia’s Malaga (Wednesday 10 pm). Ivan Rakitic and Neymar Jr suffered minor injuries in Sunday’s 0-5 victory at Levante and although both players trained with the group this morning and would probably be risked if it were a bigger match, the fact that Barça face Granada on Saturday followed by the Champions League game at Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday may mean the pair could be rested.
The Barça coach has stated he expects everyone in the squad to play their part so despite preferring certain players in La Liga so far, the heavy fixture list makes rotations logical. Gerard Piqué could be given a game in central defence while Xavi may get his first league start if Ratikic isn’t risked. Up front there could be another opportunity for Munir El-Haddadi in place of either Pedro or Neymar. The Brazilian has looked more dangerous in his more central role this season where he has provided a target for the passes of a deeper-lying Leo Messi, but if he is not completely at 100% Luis Enrique may decide to leave him on the bench.
Malaga have a doubt over left-back Vitorino Antunes who suffered a thigh strain in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Espanyol and he could be replaced by José Casado. Coach Javi Gracia could also make a change at centre-forward where Nordin Amrabat may get his first start in place of Roque Santa Cruz. Besides the draw with Espanyol, Malaga have started the season with a home win against Athletic, a defeat at Valencia and a 0-0 draw at home to Levante. There are not as many big names now that Malaga’s owner Sheik Abdullah Al Thani has stopped flashing his wad so freely but players such as Nacho Camacho, Duda and Weligton are still at the club. Barça fans will also be very familiar with ex-Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni and many will remember Luis Alberto’s fine season with Barça B in 2012/13. Barça sold the youngster to Liverpool in the summer of 2013 where he got few chances but the English team have loaned him to Malaga where he has scored once already this season playing in the hole behind the central striker.
Barça have an excellent recent record at La Rosaleda, winning on the last seven visits. Last season the corresponding fixture was played in La Liga’s second week back in August 2013 with Barça gaining a minimal 0-1 win thanks to Adriano Correira’s strike just before half-time. Tomorrow I expect Barça to take the three points again to continue with the 100% record so far under Luis Enrique. The Barça coach will again name the 18-man squad list for the game tomorrow morning before the team catch the plane for Malaga.
Barça available players: Bravo, Ter Stegen, Alves, Montoya, Douglas, Adriano, Alba, Piqué, Bartra, Mascherano, Mathieu, Busquets, Xavi, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta, Rafinha, Pedro, Munir, Messi, Sandro, Neymar.
Malaga: Kameni; Rosales, Sergio Sánchez, Welligton, Casado; Camacho, Sergi Darder; Horta, Luis Alberto, Juanmi; Amrabat.
Barça: Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Munir, Messi, Pedro.
Prediction: Malaga 0 Barça 2
Date: Wednesday 24 September 2014. Kick-off 10 pm local time.