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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Malaga CF: Match Preview

A preview of Barcelona's La Liga clash with Malaga, where a win would would see the Blaugrana climb to the top of the table

David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelona will be looking to extend their impressive winning streak and maintain their momentum ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League clash with Manchester City, as they prepare to host Malaga CF at the Camp Nou in Saturday’s early afternoon kick-off. The Andalusians were previously tipped to be one of the teams that could potentially challenge the Blaugrana’s winning streak, yet on the basis of recent performances, they could merely be the latest in line for the Barça juggernaut.

A humbling 4-1 defeat away to lowly Levante UD a fortnight ago seemed bad enough, but Los Boquerones followed that up with a 0-2 home loss against the worst away side in this season’s La Liga: Barcelona’s city rivals, RCD Espanyol. Thankfully, their healthy gap over the rest of the division has seen them remain in the top seven, but they have lost a lot of ground on sixth-place Villarreal CF, and surely need to turn around their fortunes soon if they are to keep the pace in the race for a European qualification berth.

Despite their relative inability to score goals, Malaga have somehow made that spot in the top half their own, but together with their recent downturn in form, all signs point to another easy Barcelona victory.

The only question mark surrounding the result is whether Barcelona will be preoccupied, what with the UEFA Champions League firmly on their mind. A midweek trip to England and Manchester awaits and it remains to be seen whether head coach Luis Enrique will rotate his key players in order to keep them fresh for that first-leg.

Indeed, will it matter either way? The entire squad has been in good form and if they continue in that vein, they should be too strong for Malaga. Perhaps it would even be for the best if we did see some of the fringe players? Eager to impress, players like Rafinha, Pedro and maybe even Munir could be more motivated than an Ivan Rakitić or a Neymar, both of whom could probably benefit from a rest.

Either way, Barça will be confident – but it’s not enough to simply believe we will win the match; we have to ensure that regardless of our upcoming obligations, we can deliver tomorrow. A temporary stint in top spot should be a sufficient motivator.



No suspensions. No injuries. Everything is looking pretty damn rosy in Catalunya at the moment. With nothing negative to contend with, Luis Enrique has free reign over his squad selection tomorrow and there have been indications this week that me may even draft in some support from the B team – two familiar faces in the shape of Munir el Haddadi and Sandro have been training with the squad this week and could be options if Lucho wishes to rest Lionel Messi and/or Neymar.

However, there’s nothing to suggest that Enrique will be fielding a completely second string side; Claudio Bravo for instance will start in goal, while Dani Alves should return at right-back after serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation last week. Gerard Piqué may also return to the line-up after he was rested in the Manita victory, with Jeremy Mathieu likely to partner him in defense.

That being said, this is where Lucho’s plans for Manchester City may influence his decisions. Will Mathieu be left out with one eye on the threat that Wilfried Bony may pose in midweek? With Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra in reserve, Barça have a wealth of options and pretty much can’t make a bad call in this scenario. At left-back, I also expect to see Jordi Alba back in the side as the Blaugrana will probably veer back towards a more standard backline.

In midfield, Javier Mascherano may be required at pivote and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start ahead of Busquets, as Enrique has often rested the Catalan prior to important matches. The return of Andrés Iniesta to training this week has been another welcome boost, but one suspects that he will have to settle for a cameo off the bench after his recent bout of the flu. As such, my money is on Rafinha and Ivan Rakitić being paired together, with the Croatian making way around the hour mark to give Iniesta a decent run-out.

In attack, Lionel Messi will start. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion, as much as some will pander to see him on the bench for a change. Luis Suarez should rotate back into the line-up at Neymar’s expense, allowing Pedro another start to build on his good form. Munir and Sandro could then be utilised from the bench, if Lucho wants to get brave and substitute Messi out at any stage. Don’t be surprised if Leo does complete the 90 minutes though.


The good news is that joint top-scorer Nordin Amrabat is suspended, and it gets better when you realise that integral midfield lynchpin, Ignacio Camacho is missing out for the very same reason. In terms of new additions, Egor Filipenko has been named to the squad and could be in line for his first appearance for the club, while young winger Juanpi has also been called up and will be looking to continue his recent rise to prominence by making an impact, likely off the bench.

Javi Guerra’s signature from the Segunda was supposed to provide Malaga some of the firepower they have been lacking; although just one goal in his five appearances suggests that the Andalusians will still be a little too goal-shy to contend with the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou.


Barcelona: WWWWWW

Malaga: DDLWLL


Malaga CF 0-0 FC Barcelona – 24th September 2014 – La Liga

A disciplined performance enabled Malaga to end Luis Enrique’s 100% La Liga record as head coach, as the plucky hosts frustrated and repeatedly denied Barça in a tense showdown at La Rosaleda.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Mascherano, Rakitić, Rafinha; Messi, Suarez, Pedro

Malaga (4-2-3-1): Kameni; Rosales, Weligton, Angeleri, Boka; Tissone, Recio; Duda, Castillejo, Juanpi; Guerra


Another easy win – Malaga will miss the threat that Amrabat can pose on the counter, not to mention Camacho’s organisational skills. 4-0 Barça.

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