It's back to La Liga for FC Barcelona who just a few games ago had a five point lead over their Madrid giants, but will go into the Granada game two points behind Atletico Madrid, though still ahead of Real Madrid by the same margin. Both teams, Barcelona and Granada, will be going into the game on short rest as both played on the 6th in the Copa del Rey - with one team scoring four goals and the other conceding four. So let's take a closer look at those two teams.
After two grueling matches, which at time resembled a war on the pitch, against Espanyol, Barcelona could be in line for a rotation-heavy game. But that rotation won't begin in goal where Claudio Bravo will return as the regular La Liga goalkeeper. The defense, however, could see a major overhaul as the regular four could use some rest after the Espanyol games. In fact, I think all four regulars will start the game on the bench, well maybe not Javier Mascherano, but more on that below. Therefore Aleix Vidal should get his first Barcelona start and if history has thought us anything Lucho still trusts Jeremy Mathieu at left-back. In the heart of the defense rarely used Marc Bartra and Thomas Vermaelen could get a run against one of La Liga's weaker teams.
With Arda Turan available for selection and Sergi Roberto rumored to be available for selection, Enrique will finally be able to rotate in midfield over the next few games. After being rested in the first leg against Espanyol Ivan Rakitić is almost certain to start tomorrow, but Andres Iniesta could take a seat as Arda is in good fitness despite missing six months of action. Sergio Busquets could also be given a rare night off and if that indeed happens look for Mascherano to replace him.
And then there's the attack, and "attack" and "rotation" just don't seem to fit together. So expect to see Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar to start again. The only one of the three that isn't a 100% lock to start is in my opinion Neymar as he has been playing an awful lot lately and could use some time off. We all know Messi doesn't know what the word "rest" means while Suarez will get some forced rest with his upcoming suspension.
Granada's season has not been going quite the way they were hoping for, the Andalusian side is currently just barely above the relegation zone, but their form has been improving since a nine match winless stretch running from September to November and have now won four of their last ten matches. Granada are also a very healthy team and with the return of Cristiano Biraghi from a suspension coach José Ramón Sandoval will have the full team available.
Granada CF 1-3 FC Barcelona - 28th February 2015 - La Liga
Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Vidal, Bartra, Vermaelen, Mathieu; Busquets, Arda, Rakitić; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Granada (5-3-2): Fernández; Foulquier, Lombán, Babin, Mainz, Biraghi; Márquez, Krhin, Pérez; Peñaranda, Success
Barcelona might not have been in the most scintillating form in recent La Liga rounds, but facing Granada should serve as a good "slump"-buster for the Catalans. Granada simply shouldn't have any chance against Barça, especially at the Camp Nou, but stranger things have happened in football... Still, Barcelona should win this one fairly comfortably and I'm going with a calm 3-0 win.