540 minutes of gruelling football lies in between Barcelona and their second piece of silverware. The previous week brought smiles to Catalonia in every way possible. A loss for Atletico Madrid and a paltry draw for the defending champions further strengthened Barcelona’s stronghold on the title race. They are now just two points adrift of Diego Simeone’s side, and the game in hand on Thursday could see the Catalans top the table for the first time.
Granada now visits Barcelona with every reason to fight for the three points. Diego Martinez’s side has been one of La Liga’s many success stories in recent years. The relatively recently promoted side made the Europa League Quarterfinals this season, where they bowed out to Manchester United. After tasting that European success, they find themselves craving for more. However, they currently sit at 8th and need all three points against Barcelona in order to have any chance of qualifying. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Granada.
For the last six encounters, one would expect Koeman to stick to his Gala XI without too many rotations. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is crucial and among those who have nearly no chance of being rested. The German goalkeeper will almost certainly start on the night.
Gerard Pique has been immense for Koeman’s side since his return. He has clearly been another one of the many beneficiaries of the three-man defence system. Having an extra pair of legs at the back has reduced the burden on the veteran centre-back and helped him perform at his best again.
Clement Lenglet continues to grow from high to high. The Frenchman’s renewed confidence is evident in his movements, distribution and solid defending. He is no longer the weak link he was at the beginning of the season and looks set to make another start.
Oscar Mingueza was the unsung hero for Antoine Greizmann’s stunning equalizer at the weekend. The Spaniard’s distribution has always been phenomenal, however, it was his awareness that helped Barcelona break down Villareal’s resilient defence with such ease. He will undoubtedly start against Granada.
Sergio Busquets is the backbone of this side. No lineup is complete without him, and Koeman will undoubtedly count on the experience of Busquets once again on Thursday. Yangel Herrera, on his day, is a midfield force to reckon with. It will take a stellar show from Busquets to keep the rampant Granada midfield in control.
Frenkie de Jong will start in front of Sergio Busquets. The Dutchman has had barely any form of rest this season, however, he has rarely, if ever, allowed fatigue to impede his performance. The former Ajax star’s movement has been critical for the penetration of the Catalan attack. Once again, he will be one of the most decisive players on the pitch.
Ilaix Moriba will complete the central midfield. Pedri has come under intense criticism for not being as sharp as he was initially. He is visibly fatigued, however, it is easy to overlook his contributions on the field. Pedri has set astronomical standards for himself and is now falling prey to his own standards. However, he could always be brought in the final stages of the game if push comes to shove.
Sergino Dest once again had a dull night against Villareal. Dergi Roberto replaced him at the 45-minute mark in that game. It is likely Roberto will start the coming game right from the get-go, given his positive display in the second half in the last game.
Jordi Alba will start as the Left wing-back. The Spaniard has been influential in almost every single game for his side. His menacing pace is often too much to handle for opposition defences. Alba was directly responsible for Villareal’s opener the other night, and must certainly be much more vigilant on the defensive aspect of his game.
It is sporadic that Barcelona can claim someone stepped up when Lionel Messi couldn’t. However, Antoine Griezmann stepped his game up against Villareal and almost single-handedly took Barcelona through. It is imperative for any club to have players take up responsibility. Greizmann’s recent rise in stocks is undoubtedly music to Koeman’s ears, especially with the lack of a natural no. 9.
Lionel Messi was not the man of the match against Villareal in a shocking revelation. It was a rare occurrence, yet one that Ronald Koeman hopes for to happen more. The Argentine will start for his side on Thursday, looking to come back with a bang.
Griezmann · Messi
Alba · Ilaix · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Pique · Mingueza
Our predicted lineup for tonight's game against Granada.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 29, 2021
What are your thoughts on this lineup, Culés? pic.twitter.com/tCWgtOFZDc
If Ilaix gets the nod ahead of Pedri in the midfield, we can see the latter coming on in the second half of the game. Additionally, Riqui Puig could also earn some well-deserved minutes.
Ousmane Dembele provides a searing pace and a storm of disorganisation that can often prove a valuable weapon. He could come on to replace Antoine Griezmann.