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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Las Palmas: Team News, Match Preview

Can the Blaugrana close the gap on Saturday?

Barcelona v Athletic Club - Copa del Rey: Round of 16 Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelona return to La Liga action tomorrow hoping to close the gap on runaway league leaders, Real Madrid, when they welcome Las Palmas to the Camp Nou. Los Amarillos have been one of the outstanding teams thus far this La Liga season, exceeding all expectation to sit in eighth place, just five places removed from a UEFA Europa League qualification berth. However, they face one of their toughest tests of the season with their trip to Catalunya, and the Blaugrana will be buoyed by the idea that Las Palmas struggle immensely on their travels.

While Las Palmas are one of just two sides who can boast an undefeated record at home this season (alongside Real Madrid), their away form has been rather abysmal. With just five points out of a possible 24 on their travels, Las Palmas’ away record is as bad as Osasuna’s – and the club from Navarre County are of course rooted to the bottom of the table.

In that sense, this should be a comparatively easier match for FC Barcelona. After starting 2017 with two matches against Athletic Bilbao either side of a clash with Villarreal, Las Palmas almost seems like a break by comparison – but Luis Enrique will be preaching the importance of focus to his players, as with the gap to Real Madrid being what it is, we simply cannot afford another slip-up.

While Real Madrid have stumbled at times this season, they are yet to fall down. Given their impressive midweek comeback in the Copa del Rey against Sevilla, Los Blancos are now unbeaten in 40 matches and while all good things must come to an end, it seems unlikely at this stage that they will suffer much of a decline between now and the end of the season. As such, Barcelona must take advantage of each and every slip-up; and this weekend may present an opportunity to do just that as Real once again square off with Sevilla, who last week leapfrogged Barça into second place.

That clash promises to be the match to watch this weekend, and by the time the two teams kick-off on Sunday evening, it’s imperative that FC Barcelona have placed both team under a little more pressure by securing the three points against Las Palmas.

Fortunately, it seems as though the fabled “MSN” triumvirate may have found form once again, and in that sense there continues to be a few similarities between this season, and the treble-winning campaign in 2014/15.

Barça drew their first match of both 2015 and 2017 in the Basque Country. Luis Enrique was under fire from pundits and fans alike in 2015, and here we are in 2017 with Enrique facing similar criticism about his style of management and about the style he has enforced at the club. In the third match of 2015, the MSN trident each scored a goal to secure a valuable win over Atletico Madrid; this year they did the same to Athletic Bilbao. Heck, we even have some more comments from board members regarding Lionel Messi’s future, just as we did in 2015.

Don’t take this as a sign that a treble is on the horizon, but at least consider how when a situation may seem bleak, success can still follow.



There’s nothing particularly new to report from a team news standpoint; however the news that FC Barcelona have been paired with Real Sociedad in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey could have an impact on Luis Enrique’s selection this weekend. After all, the Blaugrana must now travel to the Anoeta next Thursday and it would be an understatement to mention that our record there has been poor in recent years.

However, all that being said, that particular fixture is five days after our match tomorrow; it will also be the first of a two-legged tie and of course, the Blaugrana need a result in La Liga far more than they need a win at the Anoeta. In other words, please don’t freak out if Enrique opts for a strong line-up tomorrow, and even if he doesn’t, trust that our squad can deliver the result we need.

In goal, there will be no surprises; Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start between the sticks and at this stage, it might be worth noting that his debut season as starting keeper in La Liga hasn’t been a resounding success, at least from a statistical standpoint. The German shot-stopper only has six clean sheets to his name in 15 La Liga appearances and in that sense his average goals conceded per game is nearly 50% higher than Claudio Bravo’s during his tenure as Barça number one.

It’s not that ter Stegen is playing badly – nor is he to blame for every goal conceded; however I do believe that we have lost a lot without that clear competition between the goalkeepers in our squad. In any case, that doesn’t matter much for tomorrow’s game, so let’s move onto the defense.

Sergi Roberto remains the only choice at right-back; although tomorrow could potentially see Enrique experiment with the 3-4-3 again. Not only would this afford Roberto some rest, but it would also enable us to commit more bodies to the attack as we bid to break down the Las Palmas defense. To quickly cover off that eventuality, I suspect that we would then see starts for Jeremy Mathieu, Andre Gomes, Lucas Digne and Rafinha Alcantara, with Alba, Roberto, Busquets and Iniesta dropping to the bench – but this seems a little too unorthodox for Enrique to start with tomorrow.

Instead, I suspect Roberto will start, with Gerard Pique accompanied by Javier Mascherano and Lucas Digne, who would get the nod from me for the quality of his final ball from the left-flank. Unlike a few others who have voiced their opinions on social media, I have been impressed with everything that Digne has offered since joining, and at times he has even outperformed Jordi Alba. In this hectic January period, I’d like to see a lot of rotation at that position, if only to motivate Alba to really earn and cement his place for the final few months of the campaign.

In midfield, Sergio Busquets could be handed a rest at pivote, with Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes likely candidates to replace the Catalan if Lucho should so choose; but I suspect he will start anyway and then be taken off earlier if the match goes to plan. However, I suspect that Andres Iniesta will be rested, or at least dropped to the bench, with Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes then perhaps combining in the two interior roles. If you’re looking for a wildcard, consider that Arda Turan could feature in midfield instead, which may or not get you excited.

In attack, the aforementioned Turan is perhaps due a start given his form prior to the start of this year, but is there really any chance that he breaks the MSN monopoly? If any of the front three is rested, I would argue that it would be Suarez, and while I would be excited to see Neymar in a central role, if the Uruguayan were to drop to the bench it would certainly be for Paco Alcacer. So, expect the MSN again, but don’t be surprised if Enrique has one or two tricks up his sleeve.


The big news ahead of their trip to Catalunya was that Las Palmas will be without two of their defensive regulars. Pedro Bigas and Dani Castellano have been ruled out with injuries, leaving Quique Setien with the unenviable task of replacing the entire left-hand side of defense just before they nominally line-up against the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi. That thought in itself must be terrifying if you are a Las Palmas supporter, but they do have reason to feel somewhat confident after a midweek win at the Vicente Calderon.

Admittedly, Atleti still qualified by virtue of their 2-0 win in Gran Canaria, but the 3-2 victory demonstrated their offensive potency with Croatian forward, Marko Livaja, particularly impressing with his brace. Undoubtedly, their star player though has to be Kevin-Prince Boateng; the Ghanian midfielder was considered one of the best in the world in his position at one point during his tenure with AC Milan, and while he might not be as impressive today, he can still decide a game if given the opportunity.


Barcelona: WWWLDW

Las Palmas: DLWLWW


Las Palmas 1-2 FC Barcelona – 20th February 2016 – La Liga

All the goals were scored in the first-half in this tense encounter, as Neymar secured the three points after Willian Jose had cancelled out Luis Suarez’ early opener.


Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Mascherano, Digne; Busquets, Rakitic, Gomes; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Las Palmas (4-1-4-1): Varas; Michel, Garcia, Lemos, Lopes; Mesa; El Zhar, Gomez, Boateng, Momo; Viera


I like Las Palmas, but we’ll coast this one. 4-0 to the hosts.

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