Preview: Barcelona vs. Almeria

In the wake of Gerard Pique’s shocking retirement news, Barcelona welcome newly-promoted Almeria to Camp Nou, as they look to keep the pressure on Real Madrid at the top.

The Catalan giants released their Champions League frustrations on Viktoria Plzen in midweek, while the visitors recorded their fourth victory of the season last weekend, with a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo.

It has been another rollercoaster week at Barcelona, as one of the club’s greatest ever defenders, Gerard Pique, announced his retirement on Thursday evening, citing the weekend’s upcoming LaLiga fixture as his last ever appearance at Camp Nou.

Having joined the club in 2008, the centre-back will leave the club with 616 appearances in all competitions, making him the fifth-highest appearance maker in the club’s history.

One of only four to have managed more games in Blaugrana is Pique’s current manager, Xavi, who made the most of a dead-rubber Champions League tie to rotate his squad on Wednesday, handing minutes to four youngsters in a 4-2 win over Viktoria Plzen.

Domestically, Barca are hot on the heels of arch rivals Real Madrid after they slipped up against Girona last weekend, with the gap now down to one point at the top of LaLiga.

Robert Lewandowski scored a 93rd-minute winner at Mestalla last time out, as Xavi’s men made it three consecutive wins in the Spanish top flight, with 29 goals scored and just four conceded in their 12 outings so far.

Able to rest key players in midweek, a home clash against newly-promoted opposition should provide the perfect opportunity to keep up their title charge.

Almeria are not going too badly themselves in LaLiga, as a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo last weekend lifted Rubi’s men to 13th in the standings.

Helped by an early red card for Gabri Veiga, Los Indalicos made it three consecutive home wins in the league, having scored three goals in each of those hugely encouraging victories.

There was concern at the club following the departure of star striker Umar Sadiq in August, as the Andalusian side went on a run of four games without scoring directly after losing the Nigerian forward.

Nonetheless, replacement sharpshooter El Bilal Toure quickly found his feet, as he netted in three consecutive games before the acquisitions of Adrian Embarba and Gonzalo Melero added top-flight quality to last season’s Segunda Division champions.

Los Rojiblancos are yet to win on the road, with just one point from their six trips so far this season, and they will be up against it as they travel to Camp Nou, where Barcelona have scored 15 and conceded zero this campaign.

Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Almeria La Liga form:

We say: Barcelona 4-1 Almeria
Boasting the best home record in the league and desperate to keep up with Real Madrid, it is hard to look past a comfortable Barcelona win here.

Almeria can cause Xavi’s side problems going forward but will surely struggle to contain the impressive attacking options that have made light work of many a LaLiga defence already this campaign.

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