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Oct 1, 2017 at 3.15pm UK at Camp Nou
Barcelona
3-0
Las PalmasLas Palmas
Busquets (49'), Messi (70', 77')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Barcelona vs. Las Palmas

Sports Mole previews Sunday afternoon's La Liga meeting between leaders Barcelona and Las Palmas at Camp Nou.

League leaders Barcelona are aiming to extend their perfect La Liga record under Ernesto Valverde when they welcome Las Palmas to Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon.

The Catalan club have yet to drop a league point under their new manager, while also picking up two wins from two in the Champions League, and they are much-fancied to continue that impressive form this weekend.


Barcelona

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring during his side's Champions League group game against Juventus at the Camp Nou on September 12, 2017© Offside

The turmoil that surrounded Barcelona during the summer, when losing one of their true superstar players in Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and reportedly missing out on a number of replacement options, has since made way for a far more positive mood.

Since losing heavily to Real Madrid in the two-legged Supercopa de Espana clash in mid-August, Barca have won eight games from eight in all competitions, taking them top of both the Spanish top flight and their tricky-looking Champions League group.

Valverde, a long-term managerial target for the Catalans prior to taking over from Luis Enrique in May, boasts better stats than any other boss in the club's history after six league games, in which time his side has racked up a goal difference of +18.

Twenty goals scored and just two conceded so far, Barca can hold claim to having both the best attack and defence stats in the division, going a long way to proving their pre-season doubters wrong during what was an admittedly difficult period for the club.

Despite the hugely impressive form, though, Valverde had to defend his side somewhat following their most recent victory - a slender 1-0 win away to Sporting Lisbon - as some have suggested that Barcelona are no longer great entertainers.

Winning eight matches in a row is not enough in its own right at such a demanding club, it seems - Valverde must ensure that his attacking players are constantly at full flow, with Lionel Messi scoring in just one of his last four games and Luis Suarez scoring two in seven overall.

Barca have had a nice run of fixtures to begin the season, domestically speaking, as they have yet to face any of their serious challengers for the title; the trip to Atletico Madrid immediately after the international break will provide their first major test.

With a four-point gap on second-placed Atleti ahead of the seventh round of fixtures, and a further three on defending champions Real Madrid, Valverde's men have built up enough momentum to ensure that they will remain at the summit no matter what happens this weekend.

Recent form in La Liga: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW


Las Palmas

Loic Remy celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G football match between Chelsea and Porto at Stamford Bridge in London on December 9, 2015.© Getty Images

The 2-0 loss to Leganes at Estadio de Gran Canaria last weekend proved to be the end of the road for Las Palmas boss Manolo Marquez, who is expected to be officially replaced by former Valencia head coach Pako Ayestaran prior to Sunday's clash in Catalonia.

Marquez will remain as part of the backroom fold, where he spent time before being promoted into the position of senior boss just three months ago, as the Canary Islands outfit attempt to climb back up the La Liga table under a new permanent manager.

Las Palmas are currently down in 15th place after collecting six points from six games, with their two wins to date in the Spanish top flight coming in back-to-back games against Malaga and Athletic Bilbao a couple of weeks back.

Either side of that winning run they have lost to Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Leganes - Atleti scoring five times but Sevilla being made to work hard for their recent 1-0 victory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The stats do not make for great reading as far as incoming boss Ayestaran is concerned, meanwhile, as Las Palmas have conceded 10 times and scored just five - the fifth-worst such records in both departments during the opening two months of the campaign.

Jonathan Calleri, who joined on a season-long loan from West Ham United in July, currently joint-leads the scoring charts in Gran Canaria with a couple of goals, while former Chelsea man Loic Remy also has two goals from two sub appearances.

With Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna to come after the international break, Las Palmas know that they will have better chances of adding some points to their tally in the weeks to come, but this weekend could well prove a case of damage limitation against their rampant opponents.

Recent form in La Liga: LLWWLL


Team News

Denis Suarez in action during the Champions League game between Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach on December 6, 2016© SilverHub

Barcelona boss Valverde is expected to revert to a 4-3-3 formation this weekend, meaning that Denis Suarez could link up with namesake Luis and leading marksman Messi in the forward line.

Paulinho made a good impact from the bench in Portugal last time out and is also in contention to start, while Javier Mascherano is an option at centre-back should Valverde feel the need to give Samuel Umtiti a breather.

Elsewhere, Andres Iniesta is an option in central midfield, although after playing 80 minutes in midweek this match may come too soon for the experienced creator.

Barca have been victorious in each of their last 15 home matches, scoring at least two in the process, so the Las Palmas backline face a difficult test on Sunday afternoon.

Ximo Navarro has been tipped to start at left-back due to Pedro Bigas covering at centre-back, with Mauricio Lemos featuring alongside him at Camp Nou.

The visitors are without the likes of Sergi Samper, Alen Halilovic and Vitolo, however, and two-goal Remy is currently struggling for fitness.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho; Messi, L.Suarez, D.Suarez

Las Palmas possible starting lineup:
Chichizola; Macedo, Lemos, Bigas, Navarro; Viera, Castellano, Aquilani; Tannane, Calleri, Tana


Head To Head

These two sides have met 10 times in La Liga since the turn of the century, with Barcelona winning eight and drawing two of those encounters.

Those two draws came in the same campaign 15 years ago, but since then Barca have won four in a row, scoring 13 and conceding three since Las Palmas's promotion back to the big time two seasons ago.

The last time they faced off was in May, as Barca ran out 4-1 winners in Gran Canaria to keep the pressure alive on Real Madrid heading into the final round of matches in La Liga.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Barcelona 3-0 Las Palmas

Barcelona are seemingly brushing aside all comers at the moment, winning eight from eight since their Supercopa de Espana defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in August. Las Palmas have lost four and won two of their six league fixtures so far, meanwhile, and despite bringing a new manager on board they could be in for another long afternoon on Sunday.



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Andres Iniesta of Barcelona and Spain happily poses for photographs at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015 at the Kongresshaus on January 11, 2016
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