Following a strong performance and victory against Olympiacos in the Champions League last Wednesday, Barcelona return to La Liga action with another home game, this time against the worst team in Spain so far.
Málaga are the visitors at Camp Nou this Saturday, and it’s safe to say things aren’t looking good for one of the most traditional teams in the league: the Albiceleste are currently in last place, with only one point from their first eight games and having the third worst attack and the worst defense in La Liga.
On paper this should be an easy 90 minutes for the Blaugrana, but it won’t be for a simple reason: Málaga have become a bit of a “bogey team” for Barça. In the last six meetings between the two sides, we’ve seen two wins for Barça, two wins for Málaga, and two draws. This is the weakest Málaga in a long time, but Barça should know that this isn’t easy.
But the Blaugrana must return to winning ways after last week’s draw against Atlético Madrid, and even though Málaga are a tough side for them they should be winning this one.
Can Barça do the job and maintain their lead on top of the league? We’ll find out.
MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING
Date/Time: Saturday, October 21, 2017, 8:45pm local time, 7:45pm (UK & Nigeria), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT (USA), 12:15am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia
Television: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), Sky Sports Football (UK), SuperSport 7 (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India)
Online streaming: beIN SPORTS CONNECT (USA & Canada), Sky GO (UK), FuboTV (7-day free trial, click here to sign up)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
Ernesto Valverde called up the same 18 players that were in uniform in midweek, which shows that the manager will take this one very seriously. Some might think this could be a good opportunity to make rotations, but don’t forget that Barça play their first Copa del Rey match of the season away to Murcia, and that will be the perfect moment to rotate.
Because the game against Málaga is a must-win, Valverde cannot mess around and should select a very strong team. Without Jordi Alba at left-back, Lucas Digne will start again and made a good impression against Olympiacos. The right-back will probably be Nélson Semedo since Valverde rotates him and Sergi Roberto every game, and having not played on Wednesday Semedo will surely return against Málaga.
In midfield Ivan Rakitic returns in place of Paulinho, but that doesn’t sound as probable anymore. Contrary to all predictions, Paulinho has been very good since joining the club, and since his best performance so far was against Olympiacos it might be a good idea to reward his current form with another start on Saturday.
Up front, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez will most likely play alongside Gerard Deulofeu again. Deulofeu had to come off at halftime in midweek due to Gerard Piqué’s red card, so Valverde will probably give the young Spanish forward another chance to play from the start.
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Digne; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Deulofeu, Messi, Suárez
Jiménez; Rosales, Torres, Hernández, Baysse, Pérez; Rolán, González, Rolón, Mula; Bastón
There’s no way we’re going to drop points against such a bad team, right? Of course we could, but we won’t: 3-0 Barça.