Barcelona can temporarily move above Real Madrid and reclaim La Liga’s peak on Saturday when they play host to Malaga, and the reigning champions of Spain will be able to recall a number of key figures for the Week 12 encounter.
Having said that, Malaga are a dangerous-looking outfit at present after losing just once in their last five outings, although manager Juande Ramos has his own share of absences to be concerned about.
Tenth-placed Malaga will need to be at their best if they’re to snatch a result from the Camp Nou and move further up La Liga’s standings, and they’ll hope the international break has done their hosts more harm than good.
Read on for a preview leading up to Saturday’s kick-off, complete with viewing details, form guide and a breakdown of all the latest team news surrounding the fixture.
Date: Saturday, November 19
Time: 3:15 p.m. GMT/10:15 a.m. ET
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Live Stream: Sky Go app (UK), fuboTV (US), beIN Sports Connect (US)
TV Info: Sky Sports 5 (UK), beIN Sports 7 (US)
After a period of tough absences, Barca manager Luis Enrique’s luck is changing and is set to welcome centre-backs Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu back into the reckoning on Saturday.
Spanish newspaper Sport also reported left-back Jordi Alba will return for the Malaga clash, although Andres Iniesta remains sidelined, and Goal’s Ben Hayward noted the impact of his omission during Spain’s friendly with England on Tuesday:
Spain pretty ordinary so far tonight, but that is to be expected perhaps without De Gea, Iniesta, Piqué and Ramos. Still not much in it.
While Pique and Mathieu return, Samuel Umtiti is a new addition to the treatment table, per Sport, meaning Javier Mascherano looks likely to partner the former in central defence against Ramos’ men.
Umtiti has been an excellent signing following his summer arrival from Lyon, and OptaJean showed evidence of just how he fits into Barca’s pass-oriented philosophy after shining with France so far this year:
95.5% – Samuel Umtiti has completed 95.5% of his passes with France, more than any other Bleu with 3 games or more in 2016. Birthday.
The biggest absence for Barca, however, is star striker Luis Suarez, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Sevilla nearly two weeks ago and is suspended for the match.
Speaking to broadcaster Canal Plus (h/t Sky Sports) after that result, Suarez said: “The yellow card was actually a good thing. I start with a clean slate again ahead of games away against Real Sociedad and versus Real Madrid.”
Ignacio Camacho will be missing for Malaga’s trip after he also received his fifth caution of the campaign in this month’s 3-2 win over Sporting Gijon, as will fellow midfielders Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Keko and Recio, who are all injured.
According to Soccerway, striker Charles and centre-back Weligton will also be missing in action for Malaga, who will have to look elsewhere in order to field a strong XI against their title-contender hosts.
Predicted Barcelona lineup (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano; Ivan Rakitic; Sergio Busquets, Denis Suarez; Neymar, Lionel Messi, Paco Alcacer
Predicted Malaga lineup (4-2-3-1): Carlos Kameni; Roberto Rosales, Federico Ricca, Bakary Kone, Mikel Villanueva; Diego Llorente, Pablo Fornals; Jony, Juanpi, Gonzalo Castro; Sandro Ramirez
Suarez is a major star to be missing for Barcelona this Saturday, although Paco Alcacer looks likely to come into the home side’s attack alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, still searching for his first goal of the season.
Sky Sports News HQ presenter David Garrido highlighted Suarez has formed a habit of picking up suspensions of late, after also being set back on international duty this past week:
Luis Suárez' booking v Chile means he's suspended for Uruguay's next #worldcupqualifier v Brazil in March.
Anchoring midfielder Camacho will be the most glaring miss for Malaga, meanwhile, as he so often sits as the glue between defence and attack, not to mention scoring two goals and recording two assists this season already.
There are silver linings among Malaga’s ranks, however, and La Liga’s official Twitter account pointed to 21-year-old attacker Sandro Ramirez—the ex-Barca attacker—who could do damage to his former club this Saturday:
Malaga's Sandro is taking off! 🛫 …5 goals in his last 7 games: Eibar ⚽️ Athletic ⚽️ Leganes ⚽️ + assist Atletico ⚽️ Sporting ⚽️ https://t.co/JaJMt59XxV
Sandro is currently Malaga’s top scorer this season and will have special motivation to do well on Saturday, although his opponents will also have insider information on how best to shut him out of the game.
Twelve different players have scored for Malaga in La Liga this season, an impressive share of the attacking burden, and it’s just as well considering the visitors will need every threat they can call upon at the Camp Nou.
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