Date and Kickoff Time: 8th January; 18:30 CET
Stadium: Nuevo Los Carmenes
Competition: La Liga
Referee: Pablo Gonzalez
The last time FC Barcelona and Granada faced off, the Catalans played out a quite infuriating draw at home. The Blaugrana relied heavily on Ronald Araujo to bail them out of trouble, as he grabbed both the equalising goal and a man of the match award.
Barça right now are a work in progress. The Garnet and Blue are playing comparatively better football than they did back when they drew. Away games like this, which this season, unlike the last, had proven to be quite the hassle, are seeing better performances and results.
What to expect from Granada?
Despite the disparity in size between both clubs, Granada have been rather confident ahead of games against Barcelona. Last season the pair faced off thrice, across La Liga and the Copa del Rey. A 0-4 away victory marked the first match, a 3-5 Copa triumph was the result of the second, but on the third, the Catalans lost 1-2 at home.
Indeed since their return to La Liga, Granada have habitually taken points off Barcelona. Seven points won by them in five matches, while Barça have only six to their name.
How well have they fared this season in the Spanish top-flight? Well, they have been reasonably consistent. The Andalusians have collected 23 points from the first half of the season. While nothing exceptional, it is worth noting that since their 1-4 trouncing at home to Real Madrid, they have won and drawn three games apiece.
From a purely statistical standpoint, Granada have changed little from the last term. They are far from an attacking unit, taking an average of just 3.4 shots per game. This naturally reflects on the red and whites’ scoring ability, as they score 1.2 a game, which in itself is an overperformance of the one they ideally should have when looking at their expected goals per game tally.
Defensively, they are far from resolute. 1.4 goals against on average this term, and with a meagre four clean sheets, they rank fifteenth in Spain’s top flight. With a defence as leaky as theirs, they have Luis Maximiano to thank for keeping them relatively upfloat. His heroics in several games this season are why Granada aren’t lower in the table.
The back-four will be formed by Quini, German Sanchez, Raul Navarro, and Carlos Neva. Domingos Duarte has been demoted to a second-string role this season, but could start in case Robert Moreno decides to go with a five-man backline.
Barcelona’s Alex Collado has been training with Granada for a while now but only officially moved yesteday. He will likely come off the bench, with Darwin Machis and Antonio Puertas taking control of the wings. Luis Mill and Maxime Gonalons will start as the double pivot.
The lineup will be rounded off by Luis Suarez and Jorge Molina, who have nine goal contributions between them in the last five games.
Probable Granada XI (4-4-2): Maximiano; Quini, Sanchez, Torrente, Neva; Puertas, Milla, Gonalons, Machis; Molina, Suarez
What to expect from Barcelona?
Barcelona have been up and down more times than one can count. The Catalan giants have been as low as 14th and now are nearing the top four. Owing to this feat, Barça can rest confident in the fact that they are indeed improving, both in results and performance.
If the last two games are anything to go by, then it is clear that Barcelona have been struggling without their best players. The injury list is ever-growing, as now both Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araujo are set to be sidelined for quite some time.
Furthermore, while the team is defending better, finishing is expected to be an issue here once more. Barcelona, for instance, had 24 shots and 81% of the possession against Linares this week but could settle for nothing more than a 1-2 win.
Their five big chances missed in that match are reflective of the same statistics in LaLiga itself, where one of the few charts they top is one pertaining to big chances missed, at 33.
Much of the same is to be expected tomorrow. Barça can work their way around this issue by, as they did in the weekend, capitalising on a high volume of chance creation.
As mentioned before, Granada are not a defensively resilient side; they concede many chances and over-rely on their goalkeeper. If the Blaugrana are to work up 10-15 shots, they could score one or two, which against Granada should be enough to seal a victory.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen should make a return to the team’s dynamics. With Ronald Araujo out through injury, Xavi is likely to deploy a 4-3-3 with Oscar Mingueza starting at right-back. Jordi Alba continues at left-back while Eric Garcia starts with his role model Gerard Pique in central defence.
Frenkie de Jong’s injury means that Nico Gonzalez takes his place, alongside Sergio Busquets and Gavi. Tensions aside, Ousmane Dembele should start, with Ferran Jutgla and the returning Memphis Depay on the left and centre, respectively.
Probable Barcelona XI (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Garcia, Alba; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; Dembele, Memphis, Jugtla
Not the flashiest player and not the most prolific of strikers, but in terms of coming up clutch for his team, Jorge Molina has been quite sensational recently.
Following a dry spell in the opening nine games of the campaign, the 39-year-old has gone on to score seven goals and provide two assists for Granada, with eight of those goal contributions coming in the last five matches. Having scored and assisted against Atletico de Madrid, he will be hungry for more as he faces a depleted Barça squad.
Granada previous games: DWWLD
Elche 0-0 Granada | La Liga
Granada 2-1 Atletico de Madrid | La Liga
Granada 4-1 Mallorca | La Liga
Atletico Mancha Real 1-0 Granada | Copa Del Rey
Cadiz 1-1 Granada | La Liga
FC Barcelona recent results: WWDWL
Linares 0-1 Barcelona | Copa del Rey
Mallorca 0-1 Barcelona | La Liga
Sevilla 1-1 Barcelona| La Liga
Barcelona 3-2 Elche | La Liga
Barcelona 1 (2)-(4) 1 Boca Juniors | Maradona Cup Friendly
Barcelona 1-1 Granada | La Liga 21/22
Barcelona 1-2 Granada | La Liga 20/21
Granada 3-5 Barcelona | Copa Del Rey 2021
Granada 0-4 Barcelona | La Liga 20/21
Barcelona 1-0 Granada | La Liga 19/20
- Granada have never had a longer unbeaten run (2 games) than they have now against Barcelona.
- Barcelona have won eight of their last 10 matches away at Granada.
- Since losing against Real Madrid, Granada are unbeaten in the league (W3, L3).
- Barcelona are unbeaten away from home in their last five away games in the league (W2, L3).
- Granada have not kept a clean sheet against Barcelona in their last five games.
Barcelona have been far from the most convincing club in the world. Owing to their injuries and adaptation issues, there is little optimism for a hefty scoreline, despite the fact that Barcelona have been creating many chances of late.
Granada’s home form, and the fact that they beat a big side in Atletico Madrid recently, means that they have the confidence to attack Barcelona. We predict a low scoring encounter for this tie.
Barca Universal prediction: Granada 1-2 Barcelona