Luis Enrique’s men return to La Liga after the international break 5 points behind league-leaders Real Madrid. A win was de rigueur if the Catalans wanted to remain in the race for Spain’s top honour. Could the Blaugrana keep their hopes alive at the Los Carmenes?
A more traditional set-up from Barcelona as Luis Enrique opted for a 4-3-3. However, Jordi Alba appeared to playing in midfield suggesting that this was not much of a deviation from the more recent 3-4-3. Andre Gomes also played out of position on the night as the central midfielder operated on the wing, vacated by Lionel Messi.
A slow start to the game as Barcelona resort to possession football, attempting to create chances. Luis Suarez was the first to threaten Ochoa’s goal, as the Uruguayan connects to a Neymar pass. The Mexican however, does well to keep danger at bay.
Granada came close to scoring but squandered their chance, as Kravets skied his shot. beyond Ter Stegen.
The Catalans attempted to probe the Granada defence outside the home-side’s box, looking to score that illusive first goal.
The Catalan’s were forced into a surprise substitution nearly 15 minutes into the first half as Rafinha came off for Paco Alcacer, most probably due to a knock.
The Spanish striker replaced Andre Gomes on the right of Barca’s three-pronged attack, as the Portuguese slotted into a more familiar midfield role.
The Blaugrana had plenty of space on the flanks as Granada operated defensively, holding a compact shape.
A wonderful counter-attack for Barca, as Andre Gomes played a wonderful one-two with Neymar on the flank, before the Brazilian drew a bunch of defenders in his direction and squared the ball to an open Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan attempted an audacious chip, but his cheeky strike ricocheted off the cross-bar.
Another chance for Barça as Rakitic set up Suarez nearly ten yards out, but the striker’s attempt on goal was deflected by Ochoa. Alcacer would pounce on the rebound and square the ball to Suarez, but the Uruguayan would be denied by Ochoa. Excellent goal-keeping from the Mexican shot-stopper.
The chances had begun to pour in, and it seemed very likely that the Catalans would open scoring on the night.
Suarez was on the end of another through ball at the half hour mark, but Ochoa was having an exceptional night and denied the striker–the Catalans needed to try harder, if they wanted to get past the octopus in Granada’s goal.
A great chance for Neymar as he is one-on-one with the keeper. The Brazilian tries to round the keeper but Ochoa nicks the ball off the winger’s foot.
The score-line however, was destined to change, as Luis Suarez beat his marker on a long-ball from Jordi Alba, and chipped the ball over the keeper, under the cross-bar, to give Barça the crucial first goal of the game, moments before the end of the first half.
The second half resumed, with no new changes from Barça.
Granada however made a change as Jeremy Boga replaced Angban, and the forward would have instant impact, as he struck a beautiful shot past Ter Stegen, to equalise from a Pereira ball for the home-side.
The Blaugrana were against more confident side, once Granada had scored their early equaliser. With half an hour left on the clock, Barcelona seemed lacklustre compared the opening half when they had run circles around the opposition defence only to be denied by Ochoa. Things looked much different now, with the chances drying up significantly.
Granada pushed forward, looking to control the tempo of the game, and force mistakes from the Catalans.
However, things would quickly change in Barça’s favour, as Luis Suarez would wrestle his marker, before lobbing a ball into Paco Alcacer’s path, and the Spaniard didn’t miss; absolutely clinical finish from the striker.
With twenty minutes on the clock, Andrés Iniesta made his way onto the pitch replacing Andre Gomes in midfield.
With little over fifteen minutes left, both teams struggled for control.
With eight minutes remaining, Agbo brings down Alba, and collects his second yellow for the night, leaving Granada a man down.
Almost instantly, Rakitic scored the third of the night for the Blaugrana as the Croatian’s strike deflected off a defender, before sneaking into the far-post.
Carles Aleña got brought on for Ivan Rakitic, in the final minutes of the game, as Enrique gave the academy player a run against top-flight competition.
After a couple of half chances for Neymar and Paco Alcacer, the two combined in spectacular fashion as the Spaniard crossed a delightful delivery into the path of a rushing Neymar, who finished with his first touch to score the fourth of the night for the Catalans.
Neymar would come close to scoring his second, but in what was the final kick of the game, the Brazilian struck the post before the referee ended the home-side’s misery.
A great game with plenty of rotation means that the Blaugrana are fresh for their mid-week clash against Sevilla, while remaining alive in the title race, which is all that matters at this point.
It’s game on, folks!
Onward and upward!