Barcelona welcome Girona in the Catalan derby at the Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday, looking for their fifth straight win and to make their early-season stronghold in La Liga this season.
Barcelona Set to Play Three Games in Six Days as They Welcome Girona
Barcelona, coming from a fresh 4-0 home win over PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League last week, will be looking to capitalize on their brilliant squad depth with the signings of players like Clement Lenglet and Arthur Melo. However, their new-signing, winger Malcom, is currently out injured and did not make his way into the match squad.
In light of Barcelona’s tight fixture list, as the defending champions play three league matches in the space of six days, followed by a Champions League trip to the Wembley to play against Tottenham Hotspur, the team will want to rotate some players.
Boss Ernesto Valverde has a rich group of talented players to choose from and he will assess his options when he fields the starting lineup against Girona on Sunday. Apart from the first team players and bench regulars, he has selected Denis Suarez and Munir.
The Sunday’s game will not only be Valverde’s route to claiming the top spot in La Liga but also a testament that he is up and ready to win all the titles this season with the right amount of rotations keeping stars like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, among others safe and fresh.
Girona surprised a lot of people in their last league season after claiming a spot in the top half and achieving 51 points in their debut campaign.
Eusebio Sacristan’s side are still doing well in the league this time around, with two wins out of possible four, and just one loss so far.
Despite having a brilliant second choice keeper on the bench in Jasper Cillessen, Valverde might as well field German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal again.
The defensive line will surely have some changes as Lenglet is showing good maturity, be it coming from the bench, and the partnership between Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti has looked a bit sluggish of late, with the team conceding three goals in four matches so far.
Right back Nelson Semedo might start this time for Barcelona, with Sergi Roberto playing the whole 90 minutes in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and against PSV in Europe. Jordi Alba is almost sure to play in the left-back slot as Valverde has not picked any other left back.
The midfield might have big changes this time with some Spanish media outlets suggesting that Arthur will be starting against Girona to give a rest to Ivan Rakitic. It’s not completely sure that Sergio Busquets will start or not, but if he doesn’t, the other new signing, Arturo Vidal, might fancy his chances in the next outing.
Philippe Coutinho might as well start again, along with Messi and Suarez, while Dembele could be dropped for Denis.
Girona, who is coming to the game with back-to-back league wins over Celta Vigo and Villarreal will most likely field Yassine Bounou between the sticks as the Moroccan keeper has started all four league games so far and is the leading candidate in goal.
Bounou might be guarded by center backs Juanpe, Pedro Alcala and Bernardo Espinosa, with all three playing in the team’s two wins.
Earlier, in a draw against newcomers Real Valladolid and in a 4-1 loss against European champions Real Madrid, fullbacks Pedro Porro and Marc Muniesa started, but the games were not quite in the favor of Girona.
Girona have experimented quite a few times in the midfield, with seven players playing for the team, be it at the wings or in the middle.
But, this time, Girona will probably start with Alex Granall in the middle, along with either Alex Garcia or Pere Pons Riera or Douglas Soares. David Timor Copovi has not played since their loss to Real Madrid. The wingers for the game might as well be a pair of Aday and Pedro Porro.
The forward line will surely be the same again of Cristian Portu and Cristhian Stuani, who has already scored three goals for the team. If the team goes for three in the attack, Girona might play Borja Garcia.
Barcelona and Girona have played four times against each other in the past, with the former being victorious in all the occasions.
Barcelona had Suarez to thank in their 6-1 win against Girona on February 25 this year, while the away outing to the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi was also successful because of a 3-0 win.
The other match was a friendly which Barcelona won 2-1 in August of 2011.
The linkup and goal-scoring dynamism between Dembele and Messi has been a key to Barcelona as they have scored seven goals between them already, with Suarez getting on the act too with three goals.
Barcelona have registered 12 goals in La Liga and four in the Champions League as Messi and Dembele tore apart PSV with a hattrick and an extra goal between them.
Girona, meanwhile, have presented a mixed set of results with five goals scored and six conceded already, and most importantly when they conceded four against title contender Real.
They need to see out the leakage in the defense, and get Portu on the scoring list along with Stuani.