Preview: Granada will try to take advantage of a frustrated Barcelona
The chase for the La Liga title continues on Saturday evening, as Barcelona travel to Granada. Bouncing back from a mid-week disappointment will be the priority, but the Catalans also have a Copa del Rey final coming up.
After a 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid, which eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League, many are questioning Martino’s future at the club.
He is now asking for his players to respond on Saturday, against a Granada side that are just three points clear of the relegation zone. With six league games remaining and one point between separating them from the top spot, every point is important.
Preview: Forgetting the negative news surrounding the club is key for Barcelona
The La Liga campaign is coming to an end, but things just do not get any easier for the Blaugrana. After their injury blow to Victor Valdes, the Catalans are now facing a transfer suspension from FIFA.
On top of a possible suspension, Barcelona drew mid-week at home against Atletico Madrid, in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. A wonder goal from Diego put the visitors ahead, but Neymar slotted a ball past the Atletico goalkeeper, but that was all the hosts could do.
FC Barcelona’s 2013/14 pre-season campaign was tarnished with tax fraud allegations against Lionel Messi. As if it wasn’t enough, the mighty Spanish club was then accused of transfer fraud concerning Neymar’s move away from Santos. The intensity of this transfer issue led to the resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president in January.
Problems continue to hurt Barca under new president Bartomeu. On Wednesday, the Catalans were slapped with a two-transfer window ban for “illegal buying and selling of players under 18” according to FIFA.
However, Barcelona vice president Javier Faus is certain that “enemies” are behind all the controversies to fall down the club.
Speaking to the Spanish press on Thursday, Faus boldly declared:
Preview: Porto try to bounce back after a defeat to Nacional
In comparison to what has been normal for Porto over the last 10 or 20 years, their current campaign has been mediocre at best. They find themselves eight points off second placed Sporting CP, with rivals SL Benfica top of the league, 15 points clear.
The Dragons defeated the league leaders mid-week in the first leg of the Taça de Portugal quarterfinals, but they will now have to get past Sevilla.
Having been defeated in their last domestic match away to Nacional 2-1, interim manager Luis Castro is calling on his players to have their sights set on goal.
Preview: Barcelona can go top of La Liga, before their rivals take the pitch
Just a week ago, claiming the La Liga title looked very difficult for Gerardo Martino. After an important victory over Real Madrid, and three points mid-week against Celta Vigo, the Blaugrana are ahead of the Merengues, and just one point back of Atetico Madrid.
On Saturday, Barcelona will be without Victor Valdes. The Spanish goalkeeper was stretchered off against Celta Vigo, and was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
Preview: Barcelona will want to avoid a let down after their important El Clasico victory
An emotional rollercoaster at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday ended well for Barcelona. Three goals from Messi helped lift the Catalans over Real Madrid, and they will now have a chance to go top of the league, given Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid's late kick-off.
Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona captain, will prepare his side for a very difficult match at the Camp Nou. Enrique has been linked with the managerial position at Barcelona, but the Catalans opted to go with Gerardo Martino. And despite all the doubt involving the Argentine's future at the club, Barcelona's president as well as Martino have stated publicly that his contract will be honored.
In what is arguably one of the most scintillating domestic football showpieces, two of the most successful Spanish teams will go head to head in a tie which could ultimately prove vital in the title race for the league crown. Real Madrid who had initially lost ground on the race for the title have responded strongly and now enjoy a four point lead over the Catalans. The Castilians suffered a defeat in the return leg back in October when they suffered a 2-1 loss at the Camp Nou and will be looking to make amends this time around.
Here are five ways Real Madrid can get the better of their bitter rivals and gain an important advantage in the title race.
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The previous meeting ended 2-1 in favour of Barca. Messi and Ronaldo’s presence was overshadowed by Neymar’s dream debut in El Clasico and Alexis Sanchez’s wonderful long-range strike.
Preview: Osasuna will try to distance themselves from the relegation zone
A mid-week victory over Manchester City should propel Barcelona to a positive result on Sunday. The Blaugrana were beginning to come under fire, but their performance on Wednesday will have silenced even a few of their doubters.
They will take the pitch on Sunday with a seven-point gap between themselves and league leaders Real Madrid.
Second placed Atletico Madrid also won their match on Saturday, putting them four points adrift of the Catalans. It will now be Barcelona’s job to cut that lead down with a victory over Osasuna at the Nou Camp.
Preview: Will Los Blancos lose ground in Malaga ahead of El Clasico?
This is Real Madrid’s last hurdle before the long awaited clash at home to Barcelona on March 23 and coach Carlo Ancelotti is fully aware of the importance of winning. He stated:
“We have to keep going, we cannot relax. We have a ‘cup final’ on Saturday. Facing Barça with a four-point lead isn't the same as facing them with just a one or two-point lead.”
Marca quoted goalkeeper Diego Lopez saying as much:
“It would be three important points in the 'Clásico'. We are playing against a direct rival and we can increase the gap on them, but we have an important game before that against Malaga, we hope to play Barça with a four-point gap still and then we can increase it to seven.”
Preview: BBC fired up to maintain Real Madrid’s lead in La Liga
The BBC was on fire in midweek. Gareth Bale scored a goal and gave two assists in Wales’ 3-1 win over Iceland. Karim Benzema was on target in France’s morale-boosting 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. Elsewhere, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo netted a brace in a 5-1 rout of Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon. CR7 broke free of retired footballer Pauleta to become his nation’s all-time topscorer with 49 goals.
It’s all looking good for Real Madrid’s stellar forward line. In La Liga, Bale (10) tops Los Blancos’ assists chart whereas Benzema (15) and Ronaldo (23) have more goals between them than Barcelona’s top two highest goalscorers in the league, Sanchez (16) and Messi (15).
Preview: Barcelona can reclaim top spot with a victory
Barcelona will return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorrilla to take on Real Valladolid. With the hosts currently in the relegation zone, any points are always welcome, but they will not have it easy against the Catalans.
Having had 13 members of his first team squad away on international duty mid-week, Gerardo Martino is not willing to use that as an excuse.
From the travel time, fatigue and lack of time to prepare for Saturday’s match, all of that can play into a player’s performance. But one important aspect that should lift the spirits of the visitors should be the fact that they could possibly reclaim the top spot in La Liga if Real Madrid fails to win on Sunday.
Preview: Barcelona has a chance to makeup points
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will square off earlier in the day, which gives Barcelona a chance to gain some points on one, or both of their rivals. The thought of Almeria coming into the Nou Camp and grabbing points from the Catalans is hard to believe, but as we saw in Barcelona's last match, anything can happen.
Last weekends 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad caught many by surprise. But with Barcelona still set to take on Real Madrid later this month, Tata Martino believes that his side has the title race in their own hands.
Preview: Nobody is invincible
Everyone at Real Madrid is fired up for Sunday’s exciting match up between Atleti and Los Blancos at the Vicente Calderon. This includes quiet manager Carlo Ancelotti who told the press:
“The Copa final was a final; the game in La Liga went well for us, and not so well for them. They arrived better at the semifinals and we must congratulate them. This Liga game will be different; both teams have a lot on the line.
“There are many games left, but it is true they could go six points ahead. We have always said it: we are going to go from game to game. We will go into the game as if it was a final, as we always do. They are very good in defence and in attack they have great individuals. But nobody is invincible.”
Preview: Barcelona have not won at the Estadio Anoeta since 2007
Tata Martino's squad responded well to critics and doubters on Tuesday, when they defeat Manchester City at the Etihad. They will now have to turn their attention to La Liga, where they will be trying to break a streak of winless matches.
Saturday's meeting between these two clubs will be the fourth time they have gone head-to-head this season. This La Liga match will also be the Catalan's second visit to Basque Country in 10 days.
Their last meeting on February 12th ended in a one goal draw, but the Blaugrana already had a 2-0 aggregate lead. Messi gave the visitors the lead in the first half, but a goal from Griezmann in the 87th minute gave Sociedad something to smile about.
Preview: Day 2 without red-carded Ronaldo
Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Villarreal last weekend assured Madridistas. The squad will now play their second consecutive league game without Ronaldo who is suspended. Once again, the spotlight has fallen on Jese Rodriguez and Gareth Bale.
The former has already been tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner. He has earned the trust of Carlo Ancelotti, making 14 league appearances already with four goals and four assists.
“[Ancelotti] has helped me position myself better from a tactical perspective. He is a winner who always wants the team to improve, and that is very important,” Jese told Champions Magazine.
Preview: Neymar returns after his injury against Getafe
All the attention around Barcelona has been focused on their upcoming Champions League match. While a meeting with Manchester City promises to be an entertaining affair, the Catalans will first need to get by a Rayo Vallecano side that are in the relegation zone.
Tata Martino’s side jumped back into the top spot of the league standings, taking advantage of a slip-up from Atletico Madrid.
Saturday’s match will mark the return of Brazilian star Neymar, who has been out with an ankle injury since January 16th. But despite his return, he is likely to only see some minutes in the second half.
Preview: Barcelona are 90 minutes away from meeting Real Madrid in the final
A 2-0 victory over Sociedad in the first match was far better than Barcelona's performance. The Catalans were not at their best, and it was very clear in the second half.
Martinez was sent off in the 44th minute, and Barcelona played the entire second half with a man advantage. In normal circumstances, the Blaugrana would have put the game beyond any doubt, but a strange own goal was all they had to show for that second half.
Sociedad will now welcome the La Liga leaders to Anoeta, where they have been impressive as of late.
Preview: Chance to go top again should be extra incentive for Barcelona
Barcelona will head into Sunday’s match away to Sevilla knowing that a victory could put them back in the lead. Although Real Madrid defeated Villareal on Saturday at the Bernabeu, front-runners Atletico Madrid were unable to grab points away to Almeria.
Tata Martino’s men will now try to grab three points from a Sevilla side that has only won five matches at home, from a total of 10.
Sunday’s match will be the first time in over a year that Barcelona take the pitch in league play, out of first place. With that said, Martino will have to make some adjustments to his squad.
Preview: The first of three games without Ronaldo
Carlo Ancelotti has enough talent at his disposal and may not struggle in the absence of red-carded Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese’s role is expected to be taken by flamboyant starlet Jese and returning winger Gareth Bale.
Meanwhile, Di Maria and Modric are set to keep their spots in the starting XI after impressing the Santiago Bernabeu crowd during Real Madrid’s remarkable 3-0 win against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey in midweek.