Barcelona will aim to rise to the summit in La Liga when they welcome European outsiders Granada to Camp Nou for Thursday’s top-flight battle.
La Blaugrana maintained their title charge with a 2-1 win over Villarreal last time out, while Granada’s two-game winning streak came to an abrupt end against Sevilla.
A victory this week and the La Liga title is Barcelona’s to lose. Ronald Koeman’s side did not have it all their own way in the first half of the season, but they have been almost unplayable since the turn of the year.
Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze gave Barca a scare when he netted the opening goal in last Sunday’s encounter, but two swift replies from Antoine Griezmann put the game to bed before the break, and any hopes of a Yellow Submarine comeback were extinguished when Manu Trigueros saw red.
La Blaugrana’s reward for winning their game in hand this week will be a spot at the top of the table, as Real Madrid are only ahead of third-placed Barca on goal difference while Atletico Madrid – who lost to Athletic Bilbao last time out – are now only two points clear of their adversaries.
The Clasico defeat on April 10 represents Barcelona’s only La Liga defeat in 2021, as Koeman has overseen 15 wins from his side’s last 17 league matches, and the Catalan giants will be searching for their fifth top-flight home win on the bounce when Granada pay a visit.
In fact, Real Madrid were also the last team to defeat Barcelona on home soil in the league on October 24, and with a whopping 76 goals to boast from 32 matches – unsurprisingly a league high – Granada’s leaky defence is set for a taxing evening at the home of the title hopefuls.
Granada had just managed to get their bid for a top seven-finish back on track before they travelled to title outsiders Sevilla, who dealt another blow to Diego Martinez’s European aspirations with a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Roberto Soldado scored a last-gasp penalty to give Granada hope, but by that point Ivan Rakitic had already converted his own spot kick before Lucas Ocampos’s 53rd-minute strike ended up proving decisive, but it is not all doom and gloom for Martinez’s side just yet.
Indeed, Granada remain eighth in the table after claiming back-to-back wins against Eibar and Real Valladolid before losing to Sevilla, and with Real Betis and Villarreal struggling for consistency, Martinez’s side could narrow the gap to the European spots to four points with a shock win at Camp Nou.
However, Granada’s win at Valladolid represents their only league success on the road in their last 10 attempts, and they have conceded at least twice in nine of those games – potentially a bad omen as they endeavour to keep Messi and Griezmann at bay in midweek.
Granada were thrashed 4-0 by Barcelona when the sides met on January 9, while La Blaugrana boast a perfect record of 24 home wins from 24 games against the Nasrids in La Liga, and it would be a surprise not to see the current Barca crop make it 25 on Thursday.