MX23RW : Sunday, June 20 14:01:37| >> :120:25544:25544:
Sep 21, 2019 at 8pm UK at Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes (Granada)
Attendance: 18,889
Azeez (2'), Vadillo (66' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Granada vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Granada and Barcelona, including team news and predicted lineups.

Barcelona will be looking to make it back-to-back La Liga wins when they travel to the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes to face Granada on Saturday night.

The Spanish champions recorded a 5-2 victory over Valencia on home soil last weekend, but an average start to the 2019-20 campaign has left them fifth - only ahead of sixth-placed Granada on goal difference.


Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic pictured in action against Granada in April 2017© Reuters

Granada spent six straight seasons in Spain's top flight before being relegated at the end of the 2016-17 campaign. El Grana finished 10th in the Segunda in 2017-18 but secured a return to La Liga last season by ending the campaign in second position behind Osasuna.

The Andalusian team have not actually finished higher than 15th in La Liga since claiming sixth in 1973-74, suggesting that it will be another tough campaign as they look to consolidate in the top flight.

That said, Diego Martinez's side have made a positive start to the 2019-20 campaign, collecting seven points from their four matches to sit sixth - only three points off division leaders Sevilla.

Granada started their season with a stunning 4-4 draw at Villarreal before losing 1-0 to Sevilla on August 23. Two impressive victories have been secured in their last two, though, winning 3-0 at Espanyol and 2-0 at Celta Vigo either side of the September international break.

As expected, there was a big turnaround in players over the summer, but Darwin Machis and Domingos Duarte arrived for a combined £5.4m, while experienced forward Roberto Soldado, who has scored over 100 times in Spain's top flight, made the move on a free transfer.

It would perhaps be fair to assume that El Grana will be one of the teams fighting to avoid relegation this season, but a positive result against Barca this weekend would leave the supporters dreaming of a strong campaign.

While Barca were in Champions League action against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, Martinez's side have had a free week to prepare for this match, which precedes league fixtures against Real Valladolid and Leganes before opening the month of October away to Real Madrid.

Granada have lost each of their last six league games with the Catalan giants, and 11 of the last 12. Their sole win during that particular run did come on home soil, however, with Yacine Brahimi scoring the only goal of the match back in April 2014.

Recent form: DLWW


Barcelona's Anssumane Fati celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates on September 14, 2019© Reuters

Barca have made a modest start to their 2019-20 La Liga campaign - winning two, drawing one and losing one of their four matches to collect seven points, which is enough for fifth position heading into week five. It has not been plain sailing this term, but the champions are only three points off leaders Sevilla.

Ernesto Valverde's side started their league season with a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on August 16 before recording a 5-2 victory over Real Betis one week later. The Catalan giants could not build on the Betis success, though, and were held by Osasuna in their last game before the international break.

Last weekend brought a 5-2 win over Valencia, though, with Luis Suarez coming off the bench to score twice on his return to fitness. Barca were then in Champions League action away to Dortmund on Tuesday night - drawing 0-0 with the Bundesliga giants in their group opener.

Lionel Messi made his return from a calf problem as a second-half substitute during the week, and the fact that Ousmane Dembele will soon be available following a hamstring injury shows that Valverde's injury problems are easing, even if Jordi Alba picked up a hamstring problem of his own against BVB.

Antoine Griezmann has been in decent form thus far - contributing two goals and two assists in four league outings, although the champions will be looking for the France international to kick on in the coming weeks.

It is an interesting period of the season for Barca as they face Granada, Villarreal and Getafe in fairly quick succession before their second Champions League group game at home to Inter Milan on October 2. Sevilla will then travel to Camp Nou in La Liga - at which point Valverde's side will hope to be closer to the top.

Somewhat surprisingly, though, Barca are without a win in their last four away La Liga fixtures. Indeed, they lost to Celta Vigo and draw with Eibar in the latter stages of last season, while their two away games this term have brought a defeat to Bilbao and draw at Osasuna.

Messi's return will make a huge difference to the Catalan giants, though. The likes of Carles Perez and Ansu Fati have been brilliant for the club in the early stages of the season, but Granada appear to have drawn the short straw with Messi set to make his first start of the campaign at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes.

Recent form: LWDW
Recent form (all competitions): LWDWD

Team News

Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona on September 17, 2019© Reuters

Granada will definitely be without the services of Alex Martinez, Yann Eteki, Neyder Lozano and Fede Vico, but the home side are hopeful that full-back Quini will overcome a knock to start.

There are not expected to be many changes from the team that impressively won 2-0 at Celta last time out, meaning that Soldado should again lead the line with support from Antonio Puertas and Machis.

Alvaro Vadillo is an attacking option for Martinez should the head coach wish to freshen his side, although the Spaniard might have to accept a spot on the bench once again.

As for Barca, Alba will miss out with the hamstring problem that he suffered against Dortmund, while fellow defender Samuel Umtiti is on the sidelines until the end of next month with a foot injury.

As mentioned, Dembele has made solid progress in his recovery from a hamstring issue, although it seems more likely that the France international will return for Tuesday night's clash with Getafe.

Having featured off the bench against Dortmund, Messi should make the XI alongside Suarez and Griezmann with Valverde having the chance to field those three from the onset for the first time.

Junior Firpo is expected to take Alba's place at left-back, while there are decisions to be made in midfield with the likes of Arthur, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Carles Alena and Arturo Vidal all battling for the three spots.

Busquets and De Jong are almost certain to make the XI, but Arthur's spot from the Dortmund clash is under threat with Roberto perhaps the likeliest to come into the side.

Granada possible starting lineup:
Silva; Diaz, Duarte, Sanchez, Quini; Herrera, Montoro; Puertas, Vico, Machis; Soldado

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; De Jong, Busquets, Roberto; Messi, L Suarez, Griezmann

Head To Head

As mentioned, Barca have won each of the last six league meetings between the two teams, but Granada did record a 1-0 victory on home soil during the 2013-14 campaign.

Barca's last visit to Granada in the league ended in a 4-1 victory, while they have also won 3-0 and 3-1 in their recent visits to the Andalusian club, which is an indication of the task facing the hosts this weekend.

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We say: Granada 0-2 Barcelona

Granada would have fancied their chances of causing an upset had Messi and Suarez still both been out for Barca - the pair's return makes a huge difference, though, and we are finding it difficult to back against the champions. The hosts could put up a strong fight, but we expect Valverde's side to triumph.

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Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona on September 17, 2019
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