Real Madrid’s thumping win over Osasuna eliminates any hope of Barcelona entering the international break as La Liga leaders.
Nevertheless, the objective for the Catalans on Sunday against Granada will be the same – to take all three points and stay close to the top of the table.
Xavi Hernandez’s men travel to Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes to take on Granada on Matchday 9 of La Liga Santander and will be the favourites on the night. After all, Paco Lopez’s men have not enjoyed a great start to the season.
Granada currently sit in 19th place with just five points in eight games. They are winless in their last five games and have won just one of their last nine games across all competitions.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Barcelona.
Who will replace Lewandowski?
The hectic schedule of club football is leaving repercussions all over the world. Teams across Europe are facing the brunt of the same in the form of injuries, and Barcelona are no different.
After losing Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Pedri, and Raphinha to injuries over the course of the season, the Catalans were hit with their latest setback at Estadio do Dragao midweek.
With just over 30 minutes on the clock, Robert Lewandowski fell prey to a vicious challenge and limped off the field injured.
Subsequent tests revealed an ankle sprain complicated by ligament involvement. Both Barcelona’s and the Polish international team doctors admit that the striker will face an elaborate time on the sidelines, leaving Xavi in a conundrum.
The manager has no like-for-like replacement for the centre-forward in his squad. Thus, Ferran Torres would appear best placed to replace him considering his recent form.
The 23-year-old has scored thrice for Barcelona in La Liga this season despite making just three starts. He has won back the manager’s confidence and has earned a reputation for having a ‘Shark’ mentality.
In fact, it was the Spaniard’s goal that gave Barcelona all three points against Porto. Considering his impact after coming on as a substitute for Lewandowski on the night, he could well start against Granada tomorrow.
Xavi’s faith in Oriol Romeu being tested
After a bright start to life at Barcelona, Oriol Romeu’s form has gradually tapered off in recent games. The best example of the same was the Catalans’ most recent outing against Porto.
The Portuguese giants identified Romeu to be the weak link in Barcelona’s buildup play on the night and singled him out as the target of their press. However, it was not a one-off incident. The 32-year-old has been on a downward spiral since Barcelona’s game against Mallorca.
It so happens that Romeu’s lean patch coincides with the period without Frenkie de Jong in Barcelona’s midfield. In this case, correlation could indeed imply causation.
The Dutchman played a highly versatile role in Barcelona’s midfield, reducing the load on the former Girona star’s shoulders and compensating for his relatively sub-par distribution. With Frenkie out, Romeu’s flaws have come to the fore and do not bode well for the Catalans.
It is clear that the Dutch star will not return to action anytime soon. With Romeu being the only direct option in the defensive midfield, Xavi must look for a tactical adjustment to optimise his output.
Can Fermin Lopez light up the field?
Lamine Yamal has stolen all the limelight in Spain, but Fermin Lopez has also been quietly making a name for himself at Barcelona this season.
Lopez has been an absolute revelation in Barcelona’s midfield in recent games and has carried forward the form he displayed in pre-season into the official matches. His minutes have been limited thus far. Yet, he has made the most of his opportunities.
The La Masia starlet scored Barcelona’s equaliser against Mallorca. He came on as an early substitute for the injured Raphinha in the following game against Sevilla and was one of the team’s most influential players in terms of link-up, distribution, and threat creation.
After a positive, yet short cameo against Porto, it is rumoured that Lopez could start for Barcelona tomorrow.
In any case, Sunday’s game will be a massive chance for the young midfield phenomenon. The media has linked his rise with that of Sergio Busquets‘, and one hopes he can take off in a similar fashion as the club legend did years ago.