FC Barcelona (1st, 44pts) vs Girona FC (11th, 21pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 19
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Robert Lewandowski, Ferran Torres (out)
Girona Outs & Doubts: Santiago Bueno, David López, Ibrahima Kébé, Reinier (out)
Date/Time: Saturday, January 28, 2023, 4.15pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 3.15pm GMT (UK), 10.15am ET, 7.15am PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Estadi Montilivi, Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Alejandro Muñiz Ruiz
VAR: Jose Luis Munuera Montero
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), TSN 4 (Canada), Not Available (UK, Spain), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), others
Following a hard-fought win over Real Sociedad to advance to the Copa del Rey semi-finals in midweek, Barcelona return to La Liga action looking to complete a perfect January when they make the short trip up north for a Catalan Derby against Girona on Saturday afternoon at the Estadi Montilivi.
Including the penalty shootout victory over Real Betis in the Spanish Super Cup, Barça have won every game they’ve played so far in 2023 and currently have a trophy, are three points clear at the top of the league table and are just two games away from another Cup final. It’s been a very productive month results wise, but the performances have been very inconsistent.
The simple truth is that Barça haven’t played well enough the last two weeks, and with a huge February with giant games in three different competitions against very good teams ahead the Blaugrana must step up their level of collective and individual play to continue the good run of results as we march towards the stretch run.
So the job against Girona is not only to win but to start planting the seeds of better football, and Xavi Hernández will also have to carefully manage his squad to have a strong and fresh team heading into the February marathon. Rotations are needed, but the squad is deep and healthy enough to get a win even with backups.
But Girona have a very talented group of young players who have had a very solid season so far and took two points from Real Madrid earlier this season. The thing about very young and very talented teams is that they’re not consistent enough over a whole season but can be an absolute nightmare on any given day, and these kinds of teams usually save their best for Barça, especially on the road.
Montilivi is a small stadium but the crowd is close to the pitch and can be very tough to overcome, and Barça must be at their best from minute one. Without Robert Lewandowski up front they’ll have to be extra sharp when it comes to converting their chances, and Xavi needs to have a good plan and manage the game well.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Kessie, De Jong, Gavi; Raphinha, Fati, Dembélé
Girona (4-3-3): Gazzaniga; Martínez, Juanpe, Espinosa, Gutiérrez; García, Romeu, Herrera; Villa, Castellanos, Riquelme
Girona have a legitimately good team and will probably faced a weaker Barça side due to rotations so this will not be easy, but I still expect the road team to do the job as they always do under Xavi: 2-1 to the good guys.