After a big win over PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, Barcelona host Girona in La Liga. Barcelona are in superb form, winning every league game this season, scoring 14 and conceding just three. Girona too, arrive in good form after winning games against Villarreal and Celta Vigo. So what do Barcelona need to do against their Catalan neighbours? Let’s find out.
Watch Out For Stuani
Impressive performances from striker Cristhian Stuani and midfielder Alex Granell have shown that Girona play good quality football.
They like to play in their own half, create scoring chances from the middle of the park, counter attack and have a preference for long balls and long shots (around 11 shots per game last season).
Stuani in particular needs to be marshalled very carefully by the Barcelona defence. The striker has three goals in four games this season, and he’s particularly dangerous in the air.
11 - No player has scored more headers than Cristhian Stuani in the top five European leagues since the start of last season (level with Leonardo Pavoletti). Titan. pic.twitter.com/IqT0c8xbAD— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 17, 2018
Make The Most Of Ousmane Dembele
Girona do have shortcomings which are preventing them from climbing up the table, the biggest being committing fouls in dangerous areas (around five fouls per match last season). Getting Ousmane Dembele running at the defence will invite tackles, and Lionel Messi can thrive given his form from free-kicks.
They are also susceptible to individual errors, tend to get caught offside and have struggled to protect leads. The earlier fixture against Real Madrid this season, which they lost 4-1 after taking the lead, summarises most of their shortcomings.
Girona like to play with a high amount of risk and many times, that doesn’t work out well. They have fizzled out after spells of high octane play which has cost them points.
So the key to winning will be to force them to make mistakes and capitalize. A more interception-minded midfield, and skilful attack can make sure they lose possession more often and concede fouls near or inside their box.
That is why this fixture gives an invitation to make daunting runs throughout the game and Dembele should make the most of it. Setting up offside traps efficiently can also prove helpful against a side that was caught offside five times per game last season.
Rotate The Squad Effectively
Barcelona should rotate for this one to not only provide a breather to the A-list players but also allow the bench players a chance to prove their mettle, especially in midfield.
It’s also a good time for the new signings to put on a show now that it’s no secret that they are yet to earn the trust of Ernesto Valverde.
Midfield is the area which looks best for rotation. Arthur, if fit, deserves a starting place and a chance to show just what he can do for the the team. Arturo Vidal may also come into Valverde’s thinking.
The only issue with the squad depth is the lack of a back-up for Jordi Alba, so it will be interesting to see what Valverde does there when the 29-year-old needs a break.
Valverde did rotate last time out in La Liga against Real Sociedad but it did not work out too well, and he had to make changes at half-time. He needs to rotate effectively on Sunday, as Barcelona face three games in six days.