Coming off two wins on the bounce, Barcelona will hope to build on this run when they host Granada at the Olympic Saint Montjuic tomorrow for La Liga matchday 24.
While still an absurdly short sample size, Barcelona’s performances seem to have improved since Xavi’s announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season. Almost as if the players feel guilty about it.
Either way, with a crucial Champions League tie against Napoli on the horizon, Barça will be looking to put pressure on Girona and Real Madrid, both of whom are currently sitting above them in La Liga.
And as far as Granada are concerned, Alexander Medina’s side are sitting 19th in the table, just six points above rock bottom Almeria. Part of their six draws, however, was the game that finished 2-2 against Barcelona themselves.
In fact, Barça have not won any of their last four games against the Andalusian outfit, with the last win coming in the 2020/21 Copa del Rey quarter-finals in a thrilling 3-5 encounter.
Boosted by the return of a couple vital players, the Catalans will be hoping to put these ghosts behind them tomorrow, with the predicted lineup looking something like this:
Defence: MATS back
The biggest news ahead of this game is the return of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German was sidelined since November, but is expected to return directly into the starting lineup tomorrow.
Ahead of him, we can predict Joao Cancelo to take over the left-back position, with Alejandro Balde out of action for the rest of the season. The Portuguese will be joined by Jules Kounde on the right.
Ronald Araujo’s been far from his best, but as one of the leaders of the side, his starting position in the team is far from in doubt. He should take charge of central defence, for the first time in a while without the captain’s armband.
The final piece of the back-four will likely be Pau Cubarsi. La Masia’s biggest defensive prospect since Gerard Pique himself, the 17-year-old seems comfortable alongside Araujo, and should be given the nod ahead of Inigo Martinez for tomorrow.
Midfield: Christensen continues as the pivot
One of the biggest surprises against Deportivo Alaves was Andreas Christensen starting as the pivot. The Dane did well in his 82 minutes on the pitch, and is expected to retain his spot vs Granada.
Ilkay Gundogan picked up a knock to his back last weekend, which was definitely a bit of a scare for Barcelona fans. He has been cleared to participate, though, and will likely take up one of the roles in central midfield.
Frenkie de Jong should be the final piece of the puzzle in this trident. With exit rumours looming, this could be the Dutchman’s final run of games in the blaugrana.
Attack: Raphinha or Yamal?
Lamine Yamal has definitely played too many minutes across the last month or so, but with Joao Felix and Ferran Torres injured, Xavi does not have much choice tomorrow, either. The good news is that Raphinha is back from his injury, and could slot back in the second half.
Xavi opted to bring back his midfield-quartet against Alaves, with Pedri as the left-winger. While from his best, the Spaniard did end up assisting Gundogan for the second goal. He should continue in that role tomorrow.
Finally, there is little to no doubt about Robert Lewandowski’s starting spot, especially with Vitor Roque suspended. The Pole will lead the line once again.
Fermin Lopez is one of the first in the queue to come off the bench vs Granada, with solid performances in the limited time he has received so far this season.
Raphinha will also be looking to make his return for the first time in a month tomorrow, which will be a huge boost for Xavi, especially with the run of games Yamal has been asked to endure recently.
With Roque and Balde unavailable, Marc Guiu and Hector Fort will almost definitely be called upon at some point during the game.
Finally, we expect Xavi to give game-time to Inigo Martinez with the hope that the Spaniard can return to full match fitness and slot back into central defence for the rest of the season.