Over a week after their last game in La Liga, Barcelona return to action on Sunday at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys against Granada. Riding on the back of consecutive wins, the Blaugranas’ objective will be to take their streak to three on the trot, a feat they have managed only once since the end of September.
Their opponents on the night will have a different manager on the sidelines to the one they had when the two teams faced off earlier this season. Alexander Medina now sits in the chair once occupied by Paco Lopez, but he has not been able to turn around the fortunes of his men yet.
In the nine games Medina has overseen at Granada since his arrival, the team have won just one game and lost six times. They currently languish in 19th place on the league standings, eight points away from getting out of the relegation zone.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Granada.
Poor head-to-head record
Granada is one of those teams that have mastered the art of neutralising Barcelona in recent years. The Catalans have not won against the first-division side since the beginning of 2021, making it close to two years since their last win over them.
It was in the Copa del Rey that Barcelona last got the better of Granada. At the time, Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, and Antoine Griezmann were all at the club, with the Argentine talisman drilling out an absolute masterclass.
Yet, it took the team extra time to get the better of their opponents. Two goals in the 88th and 92nd minute helped Barcelona come back from 2-0 down to 2-2, forcing an additional 30 minutes of action where goals from Frenkie de Jong and Jordi Alba helped complete the comeback.
From there on, it has been a downhill battle for Barcelona. They lost to Granada at Spotify Camp Nou in April 2021, before scampering to two draws against them in their two meetings in the 2021-22 campaign.
Granada were relegated to the second division for the 2022-23 campaign and made a return for the ongoing season where they held Xavi’s men to a 2-2 draw at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes. That result extended Barcelona’s winless streak over the team to four games.
Though Alexander Medina’s side are struggling in La Liga with just 12 points in 23 games, it is safe to say that Barcelona are far from favourites given their form and head-to-head record. A difficult battle awaits.
Marc Guiu’s chance to shine
Barcelona are in a spot of bother in the attacking department with a long list of injuries impeding Xavi’s plans in the final third. Joao Felix and Ferran Torres are out through injury, leaving Lamine Yamal as the only viable winger for the Catalans, along with the returning Raphinha.
The La Masia starlet is thus expected to get a sixth consecutive start, though it is far from ideal, and will feature alongside Robert Lewandowski who showed an improved presence in the last game.
While the starting options are quite straightforward for the manager, he will not be able to call on Vitor Roque who was bizarrely sent off against Deportivo Alaves. The Brazilian’s suspension, thus, opens up the door for another La Masia starlet – Marc Guiu.
The Spanish prodigy was injured while playing for the youth team last week but will be ready to face Granada in what could be a critical game for his continuity. After all, Vitor Roque’s recent burst onto the scene puts pressure on him to perform.
Roque has now racked up two goals from his last two appearances off the bench and is gaining strength as Xavi’s go-to option when in need of a goal. Tomorrow’s game is thus Guiu’s chance to stake a claim on the position and keep himself in the first-team dynamics.
A vital push
Matchday 24 of La Liga houses one of the season’s most important clashes for the league title race – Real Madrid vs Girona.
The top two sides take on each other at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night in what will be a blockbuster clash with critical repercussions for both teams. After all, Los Blancos are just two points clear of Michel’s men and risk losing the lead if they lose on the night.
Barcelona are still far from the picture in the title race as they currently sit on 50 points after 23 games. They are six points behind Girona and eight below Real Madrid and will need both sides to make mistakes to gain a re-entry into the race.
Tomorrow’s clash against Granada, however, is their one chance to cut the deficit with the two leaders. After all, one, or both of Real Madrid and Girona will drop points and will provide Barcelona with inroads into the title race.
In the ideal scenario of the game ending in a draw, Barça will find themselves just four and six points behind Girona and Real Madrid respectively, provided they win vs Granada. A Girona win would not sit badly for the Blaugranas either, for it will leave them five and six points behind Real Madrid and Girona respectively.
Nevertheless, the first condition for the aforementioned calculations is that Xavi’s men win their game over Granada, and the implications mentioned above must serve as impetus for the same.