Barcelona face Granada at the Nou Camp with the current injury crisis taking the headlines (9pm, Saturday, Sept 22).
Barcelona saw off a very determined Spartak Moscow in midweek in the Champions League, another game which saw Lionel Messi rescue all three points for the home side.
The game against the Russian side saw Gerard Pique pick up a foot injury, which will rule him out for around three weeks, while Carles Puyol has also been out of the line up and could remain on the sidelines for a number of weeks.
It’s never the best idea to go into a season with only two recognised centre-backs, but manager Tito Vilanova really took a risk by not properly addressing that area over the summer.
Alex Song came in from Arsenal and was praised for his versatility and defensive abilities. The Cameroon international was quickly tested at the back, however, coming on for Pique and not looking entirely convincing alongside Javier Mascherano against Spartak.
Vilanova will be thankful that the team’s next game is at home to a side that they should comfortably see off.
With only Song and Mascherano as the available centre-back choices (remember, Eric Abidal is also still out), the manager may opt to introduce Marc Bartra into the line-up. Bartra is another one of those special talents from La Masia, and there is plenty of hope for the young defender.
In attack, it was another Lionel Messi show which saw Barcelona pick up all three points. In fact, that summary can be applied to their away win against Getafe last week. Two goals from the Argentine forward put the game beyond doubt, with David Villa adding the final goal on the 4-1 win last week.
What is interesting is Lionel Messi’s form. He doesn’t control the games as we know he can, rather drifting in and out and reminding us of his special quality by showing up and landing the knock-out blow. It’s no bad thing when he continues his scoring exploits, but his form has noticeably dropped off in recent games.
The game against Granada should see Tito Vilanova with a full strength attack, with Cristian Tello helping himself to a goal in midweek and staking a claim for a starting role against Granada.
Jordi Alba has also rejoined training this week and should be in contention for a place in the squad on Saturday.
The plus from the game against Getafe was David Villa’s goal – another to add to the goal tally since his return only a few weeks ago. As I’ve mentioned a few times already, he will be key for Barcelona this season. It may only be “meaningless” goals for now (and by that I mean goals that come when the team are already three or four goals clear), but the comfort is knowing he’s already firing and not in need of readjusting to the game.
Barcelona’s opposition on Saturday night are currently in 18th place in the league and have absolutely no hope of winning at the Nou Camp.
Even a poor Real Madrid managed to put three unanswered goals past Granada a few weeks ago, while the best the team have done this season is two draws.
They’re a team who narrowly avoided relegation last season, but I certainly expect them to be in another relegation scrap this season.
Barcelona v Granada Betting Tips Verdict
This game on the weekend is Barcelona’s to lose, but I have full confidence they’ll be able to pick up three points. Another three points for Tito Vilanova’s men means they’re 11 points clear of Real Madrid, heaping plenty of pressure on Jose Mourinho for their game on Sunday night in the capital.