Barcelona is aiming for a third consecutive victory in La Liga as they host struggling Granada at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on Sunday night.
Xavi’s team currently sits third in the La Liga table, trailing the leaders Real Madrid by eight points, while Granada is in 19th place, eight points adrift of safety.
Since Xavi announced in late January that he would step down as head coach this summer, Barcelona has won their last two league games against Osasuna and Alaves.
Despite the upheaval, it could still be a successful season for the Catalan outfit. Later this month, they will travel to Napoli for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
A title challenge remains a possibility, with Barcelona only eight points off the top with 15 games remaining. They are also just six points behind second-placed Girona, setting up a crucial battle on Saturday evening.
Barcelona is five points clear of fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, and their response to the 5-3 home loss to Villarreal on January 27 has been strong.
The team has lost three times at their temporary home this season but faces a Granada side that has only picked up one point from their 11 away games.
Each of the last three league games between these teams has ended in a draw, with Barcelona’s last victory over Sunday’s opponents in Spain’s top flight coming in January 2021.
Granada held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture earlier this season and also secured a point in a 1-1 draw when they visited Camp Nou in September 2021.
Meanwhile, Granada famously won 2-1 at Barcelona in April 2021, so they will not be intimidated despite their struggles this season.
It has been a tough campaign for the Andalusian outfit, who secured promotion to Spain’s top flight by winning the 2022-23 Segunda Division.
Medina’s side has only amassed 12 points from 23 league matches this season, sitting in 19th place, eight points behind 17th-placed Mallorca.
Granada managed a draw at home to Las Palmas last weekend but has lost three of their last four in La Liga, including a 2-0 defeat at Getafe in their last away match.
Barcelona La Liga form:
W W W L W W
Barcelona form (all competitions):
W W L L W W
Granada La Liga form:
L W L L L D
Barcelona will welcome back goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has recovered from a back operation. Raphinha may also return after overcoming a thigh issue.
Ilkay Gundogan should be fit despite a scare against Alaves, but Vitor Roque is suspended due to a red card in the last match.
Barcelona will be without Ferran Torres, Joao Felix, Sergi Roberto, Alejandro Balde, Marcos Alonso, and Gavi due to injuries.
Andreas Christensen is expected to continue in central midfield, with Pedri further forward.
Granada has six players unavailable, with injuries sidelining Lucas Boye, Victor Diaz, Jesus Vallejo, and Raul Fernandez. Kamil Piatkowski and Gonzalo Villar are suspended.
Oscar Melendo was substituted early against Las Palmas for tactical reasons and will be fit for the clash with the reigning champions.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Kounde, Araujo, I Martinez, Cancelo;
F de Jong, Christensen, Gundogan;
Yamal, Lewandowski, Pedri
Granada possible starting lineup:
Sanchez, Mendez, Miquel, Maouassa;
Pellistri, Melendo, Hongla, Ruiz, Neva;
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Granada
Barcelona needs to keep winning in La Liga and see where it takes them, especially as at least one of the top two will drop points on Saturday.
Granada has more to offer than they have shown this season, but we find it difficult to back them to pick up a positive result on Sunday night.