Deportivo Alavés (19th, 17pts) vs FC Barcelona (7th, 32pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 22
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Gavi, Ousmane Dembélé, Eric García, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti (out), Memphis Depay (doubt)
Alavés Outs & Doubts: Ximo Navarro, Rubén Duarte (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 23, 2022, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country
Referee: Jorge Figueroa Vázquez
VAR: José María Sánchez Martínez
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
Following a brutal loss in extra-time away to Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona have no time to rest and are right back on the road to the Basque Country for the second time in three nights as they face Deportivo Alavés at Mendizorroza.
The painful defeat at San Mamés was a tough one to swallow, and Barça’s best shot at a trophy this season is gone. With only La Liga and the Europa League left, qualifying for the Champions League is the main goal for the season, and the fight for the Top 4 promises to go down to the wire with Real Betis, Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad, Barça and Villarreal all realisitc contenders for the final two Champions League spots behind Real Madrid and Sevilla.
Because the race will be so tight until the end there are games when you are simply obligated to pick up all three points. Alavés, even though it’s away from home, is one of those games. Sunday’s hosts haven’t won a match since early November and are currently on a nine-game winless run where they’ve conceded plenty of goals and looked like a real relegation candidate.
They are coached by José Luis Mendilibar, who doesn’t have a very good record against Barça going back to his days as the manager of Eibar. But those games always followed a similar script: Eibar would be well-organized and tough to break down for 65-70 minutes, and then Lionel Messi would score a hat-trick and Barça would win 5-1.
Messi is obviously not there to torment Mendilibar anymore, but his managerial skills are still there to cause Barça problems on Sunday. This Alavés team is not nearly as good as his Eibar sides, however, so the Blaugrana remain big favorites even without the GOAT.
This could be tough, but it doesn’t need to be. Barça will be tired from Thursday’s extra-time battle, but Xavi’s men can absolutely win this one without much trouble if they play anywhere near their best.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Nico, Busquets, F. De Jong; Ferran, L. De Jong, Jutglà
Alavés (4-4-1-1): Pacheco; Martín, Laguardia, Lejeune, García; Jason, Escalante, Pina, Rioja; Méndez; Joselu
I always hate when I’m optimistic for a Barça game, but for some reason I think we’ll play a really good game and win convincingly: 3-0 to the good guys.