Granada CF (19th, 5pts) vs FC Barcelona (3rd, 20pts)*
*Standings at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 9
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Raphinha (out)
Granada Outs & Doubts: Victor Diaz, Raul Fernández, Jesús Vallejo (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, October 8, 2023, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, Granada, Andalusia, Spain
Referee: César Soto Grado
VAR: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Viaplay Sports 2 (UK), Not Available (Spain, Canada), others
Following a hard-fought and crucial Champions League win away to FC Porto in midweek, Barcelona return to La Liga action for their final game before the second international break of the season as they travel to beautiful Andalusia to face struggling Granada at the Nuevo Los Cármenes on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one four points off the top and need the win to keep pace with the leaders, and they’ll be looking to remain the only unbeaten team in Spain going into the third month of the campaign. It’s been a very strong start to the season, but it’s safe to say Barça don’t have a lot of energy left right now.
The schedule after the first international break was brutal with plenty of tough and important matches in a very short period of time, and losing two more key starters to injury added even more burden to the rest of what already is a short squad as they look to continue winning and playing well without a lot of time to recover between games.
This is the challenge for teams who want to be at the very top, however, and one that Xavi Hernández dealt with constantly as a player when his Barça teams competed for every trophy without a lot of bodies and a ton of pressure was put on him and the other key players on the team to perform and triumph every three days.
There is one more game to perform well in before the team goes on a two-week break and the players try to avoid injury in the international window, and this is one Barça will be expected to win. Granada have only five points and one win from their first 8 games and already conceded 21 goals, thanks in large part to a very aggressive style of play under manager Paco López.
Granada are one of the very few small teams in La Liga who don’t park the bus against the big boys and want to take the fight to whatever side they’re facing, especially at home where the crowd feeds off the energy of the team and creates a fun atmosphere. They press high and are very physical, and are capable of creating very dangerous chances with very quick sequences of passes and quality work on set pieces.
They deserve a ton of respect for their willingness to stick to their identity when facing a team like Barça, even if it looks a little naive at times. But it makes for a good bit of entertainment, and we should be treated to a fun match on Sunday evening if the home team doesn’t deviate from their usual plan.
Barça won’t find it too hard to create chances and must be clinical to try and wrap up the win as early as possible, but they must be very focused from the start as Granada like to come out on the attack and try to score an early goal. They rarely give up, and if Barça allow them to stay alive going into the final minutes this could get very nervous.
This should be a Barça win, but it won’t be easy or comfortable. Granada don’t let you feel at ease or comfortable, and they’ll push the Blaugrana to the limit to find out if there’s enough energy in those Catalan legs after a brutal stretch.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Araujo, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Fermín, Romeu, Gavi; Yamal, Ferran, Félix
Granada (5-3-2): Ferreira; Sánchez, Rubio, Torrente, Miquel, Neva; Ruiz, Gumbau, Villar; Uzuni, Boyé
Barça are tired and desperate for a break, but they need to find a way to play well one more time against a team that will give them chances. I expect an open, intense game with the good guys getting the win, but it won’t be easy: 3-1 Barça.