FC Barcelona (3rd, 34pts) vs Girona FC (2nd, 38pts)
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 16
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Marc-André ter Stegen, Gavi, Marcos Alonso, Iñigo Martínez (out)
Girona Outs & Doubts: Borja García, Toni Villa, Yangel Herrera (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 10, 2023, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Montjuïc, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Isidro Díaz de Mera Escuderos
VAR: Valentín Pizarro Gómez
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), Viaplay Sports 2 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), others
Following an impressive win over Atlético Madrid and a full week of training in beautiful Catalonia, Barcelona return to action for another monster La Liga clash as they welcome Catalan rivals Girona to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one in good form after two big wins over FC Porto and Atlético that guaranteed a spot in the Champions League knockout rounds and gave them three big points over a fellow Top 4 rival, and now the Blaugrana want to definitively enter the title race by beating one of the co-leaders going into the weekend.
And thanks to Real Madrid’s draw away to Real Betis on Saturday, Barça will be only two points off the top if they earn a victory against Girona and end the year as one of the three main title contenders. But getting all three points in this one will not prove easy, and it’ll comfortably be one of the most brutal tests the Catalans will face all season.
We don’t know if Girona will be able to maintain this same pace for the rest of the campaign, but as of now they are undoubtedly a force and a title contending team. Their attack is nearly unstoppable, with a perfect blend of possession football and physical, counter-attacking play that can cause every opponent problems.
Girona can morph into whatever they need to be on offense, and their ability to score goals against anyone helps offset their obvious defensive shortcomings created in part by their personnel and in part by their attacking philosophy. Manager Míchel has done a masterful job creating a team full of speed and life, and they are legitimately a lot of fun to watch and are winning while also entertaining.
They want to prove against Barça that they’re for real, and show the world that they’re not just a fun team punching above their weight that will eventually crash back down to Earth after they lose to the big teams. But they also want to do it their way, with good, high-quality offensive football and goals. Even against the might Barça away from home.
Xavi Hernández and his troops need to bring their very best from the get-go, and this promises to be very competitive and very fun for all 90 minutes. I’m not genuinely excited for too many La Liga games these days, but this is one I’ve had circled on the calendar for a while. There’s just no way this won’t be awesome, and I’ll feel a lot better about Barça if they win this one.
Let’s dance. The music will be good.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Cancelo; Pedri, De Jong, Gündogan; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Félix
Girona (4-5-1): Gazzaniga; Couto, Eric, Blind, Gutiérrez; Tsigankov, Martín, López, Aleix, Savio; Dobvyk
Girona want to prove they’re for real, and they’ll want to do it their way. That’ll mean a fun, open game which suits Barça’s style well. I expect this one to be super entertaining, with the home team finding a way to win in the end: 3-2 to the good guys.