FC Barcelona (3rd, 50pts) vs Granada CF (19th, 12pts)*
*Standings at the time of writing
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 24
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Gavi, Ferran Torres, Alejandro Balde, João Félix, Sergi Roberto, Vitor Roque, Oriol Romeu, Marcos Alonso (out)
Granada Outs & Doubts: Kamil Piatkowski, Gonzalo Villar (out), Raul Fernández, Lucas Boyé, Jesús Vallejo, Víctor Díaz (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, February 11, 2024, 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: Miguel Ángel Ortiz Arias
VAR: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Movistar (Spain), others
Following an important victory away to Alavés and a rare but welcome eight-day layoff to rest, recover and train in beautiful Catalonia it is time for Barcelona to return to La Liga action as the defending champions welcome struggling Granada to the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one looking for a third consecutive victory in the league, and after Real Madrid’s statement victory over Girona on Saturday the Blaugrana currently sit eleven points behind the leaders. A win on Sunday will cut the deficit to eight points with 14 games to go, so the title chances get smaller and smaller every week.
But second place is very much up for grabs now, and the Catalans cannot give up on the title until they’re mathematically done. They have no choice but to keep fighting and picking up as many points as possible, and finishing second instead of third means more prize money and a spot in next year’s Spanish Super Cup which is yet another source of income for a club in desperate need of every euro they can make.
The Champions League Round of 16 against Napoli is rapidly approaching and that will no doubt be Barça’s priority, but they still have two winnable La Liga games before then and must find a way to get all six points. Sunday’s opponents Granada are having an awful season and need a miracle to avoid relegation, but they have been quite the thorn on Barça’s side in the last half-decade.
Granada are unbeaten against Barça in their last four meetings in the league, and the Blaugrana’s last win at home against Sunday’s opponents was four years ago when Lionel Messi was still a part of the squad — and scored the winner, obviously.
Xavi Hernández is yet to beat Granada as Barça’s manager, but this is the first and only time he’ll face them at home before leaving the job. The other two meetings came on the road and ended all square, with their first matchup this season back in October ending in a wild 2-2 draw in a game Barça thoroughly dominated and should have won.
Granada have lost their talisman, Bryan Zaragoza, who scored both goals against Barça and was their standout player for much of the season before joining Bayern Munich in January. They’ve won twice all season and only once since August, have the second-worst defensive record in the division and only picked up one point on the road so far.
The last time Barça faced a team this bad on paper at home was in the final game of 2023 against bottom of the table Almería, and that was one of the Catalans’ worst performances of the season that could have easily led to a loss if not for a heroic Sergi Roberto cameo in the second half.
The Blaugrana must learn their lesson and not take this one for granted. If they play with a serious attitude and with enough intensity from the start, they’ll eventually find a way to win against a team that will probably park the bus and look to frustrate them. But if there’s any complacency whatsoever, this could quickly become a tense game that ends Barça’s title hopes once and for all. So no messing around.
And if they can also keep a clean sheet on Marc-André ter Stegen’s return, that would be pretty sweet too.
Barcelona (4-2-3-1): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Iñigo, Cancelo; Christensen, De Jong; Yamal, Gündogan, Pedri; Lewandowski
Granada (4-3-3): Batalla; Sánchez, Rubio, Miquel, Neva; Ruiz, Hongla, Gumbau; Pellistri, Arezo, Melendo
Granada haven’t lost to Barça in three years and Xavi is yet to beat them, but this is the first and only time the boss will face them at home and I believe Montjuïc will prove to be a positive factor to finally break the streak: 3-0 to the good guys.