Barça face Granada at the Los Cármenes stadium tomorrow (Saturday 4 pm) in the knowledge that the last two Saturday afternoon games ended in a 0-0 draw at Getafe and last week’s 0-1 defeat to Malaga. Barça must not get caught napping again as only a victory will do to maintain pressure on leaders Real Madrid who have a four-point advantage at the top of La Liga going into the weekend with fourteen games remaining.
Luis Enrique is without the suspended Gerard Piqué for tomorrow’s game, and with a Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at Villarreal on Wednesday the Barça coach is likely to make more rotations to his starting XI with Bartra, Mathieu, Adriano, Xavi, Rafinha and Pedro all with a good chance of making the line-up. Sergi Roberto and Masip have been left out of the 18-man squad for the game and the group will travel this evening to Granada for an overnight stay.
Granada are struggling in 19th place in the table and for tomorrow’s game coach Abel Resino will have to make do without the suspended El Arabi, Colunga and Juan Carlos and the injured Murillo and Piti. The Andalucians have only secured two victories, against Deportivo and Elche, in ten home games in the league this season which might suggest things will be easy for Barça. However, a statistic that should cause us more concern is that in the last six of those home games our opponents have only conceded three goals.
We should also remember the three previous visits to Granada if we want to avoid any complacency. Since their promotion in 2011 El Graná have given us three tough games on their home turf. In 2011/12 a Xavi free-kick earned Barça a narrow 0-1 victory while in 2012/13 Granada scored first before a Messi brace gave Barça a 1-2 win. Last year’s corresponding fixture came in April with Barça battling for the title but despite 26 shots Tata Martino’s team failed to beat substitute goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and Granada held on to a 1-0 win thanks to a 16th minute goal from Yacine Brahimi.
Another defeat tomorrow would again put a serious dent in our title challenge. The possible rotations run the risk of affecting our momentum but Barça should still be good enough for victory.
Barça 18-man squad: Bravo, Ter Stegen, Alves, Montoya, Bartra, Mathieu, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Rafinha, Rakitic, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Granada: Oier; Nyom; Babin, Mainz, Foulquier; Iturra, Rico; Candeias, Javi Marquez, Lass; Cordoba.
Barça; Bravo; Alves, Bartra, Mathieu, Adriano; Xavi, Mascherano, Rafinha; Messi, Suárez, Pedro.
My bet: correct score: Granada 1 Barça 2 (current odds 11.00) The best odds for soccer betting are at William Hill.
Date: Saturday 28 February 2015. Kick-off 4 pm local time.