La Liga leaders Barcelona will play away against Getafe on Saturday.
Ahead of their La Liga clash, we take a look at the key talking points.
Get in touch with your thoughts!
MORE MESSI MAGIC ON THE WAY?
With seven goals in his last three games for Barcelona, Lionel Messi’s outrageous form has created expectations that he will simply turn up and score a hat-trick whenever he plays.
Despite the occasional talk of Messi supposedly being “in decline”, which presumably comes from people who don’t actually watch him play, the Argentine is looking as good as ever, partly because he is playing in a more defined position as new manager Ernesto Valverde gradually puts his imprint on the team.
As the point of a midfield diamond from his false nine forward role, Messi is able to be both the team’s main playmaker and main finisher at the same time, and he is revelling in the new formation’s ability to extract a lot more from midfield trio Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic.
The one negative about the system is that both Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele have looked rather lost, with Suarez awkwardly adopting an inside left role that prevents him from playing to his strengths.
Sooner or later, Messi will be stopped and those two will need to step up…but the way Messi’s playing right now, that might not be on Saturday.
HOW MUCH ROTATION FROM VALVERDE?
With the exception of Dembele and Gerard Deulofeu alternating on the right wing, Valverde repeated exactly the same line-up for his team’s last two games – home wins against Espanyol and Juventus.
It’s clear the new Barca boss regards those players as his strongest eleven, but he’ll be keenly conscious of the physical risks in selecting the same line-up game after game, and will be highly tempted to rotate his squad for Saturday’s trip to Getafe.
Veteran skipper Andres Iniesta, in particular, is definitely due a break after also starting consecutive games for Spain in the prior international break. Starting five games in a row would be demanding an awful lot from a 34 year-old, so Iniesta’s place could well be taken by Andre Gomes this afternoon.
But the problem will be whether Valverde can give a rest to key individuals such as Iniesta without detracting from his team’s overall quality – an issue his predecessor Luis Enrique continually wrestled with but never properly solved.
ANOTHER CLEAN SHEET FOR CENTURION TER STEGEN?
German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is set to make his 100th appearance of a highly eventful Barca career this afternoon, and he comes into the game in fine shape after keeping a clean sheet in his last four consecutive matches.
With a current record of 411 minutes without conceding, ter Stegen is closing in on his personal best of 564 minutes, but focussing solely on ‘goals against’ statistics is a poor measure of a goalkeeper who also acts as a deep-lying playmaker thanks to his exceptional passing ability.
That has sometimes counted against him, with ter Stegen’s unflappable confidence on the ball occasionally resulting in him putting himself into dangerous situations unnecessarily, but playing out from the back remains an absolute fundamental to Barca’s approach and his style will not change anytime soon.
Ter Stegen is certainly firmly installed as Barca’s first choice keeper, and at the age of just 25 Saturday’s century of appearances probably won’t be his last for the Blaugrana.
Barcelona are set to spend a whopping €470m on salaries this season – that’s €20m more than Real Madrid have forecast for the 2017-18 campaign.
Following the high-profile sale of Neymar to PSG – Barca’s wage purse has increased by nearly €50m compared to last season.
Barca’s overall budget amounts to €897m, a rise from €695m, but that’s down to a €147m profit over the €222m departure fee of Neymar and a saving of €30m on his salary.
Despite the signings of Ousmane Dembele, Nelson Semedo, Gerard Deulofeu and Paulinho – Barca are still saving on annual salaries – and that in itself represents significant financial success.
This is hammered home by the fact that their overall budget last season was €695m.
In essence, Barca have more funds in the kitty to tempt players with if they wish to make movements in the transfer market in January – or indeed, looks to extend deals for the likes of Andres Iniesta.
While Blaugrana hold the edge over the Whites in the salary department this season, Real Madrid are in a healthy position and have €20m extra to splash on salaries this coming year – which could have been behind their contract extensions for Marcelo and Isco.
Official financial data from both La Liga giants is set to be presented on September 19.
While it took some time for Barcelona striker Luis Suarez to get on the scoresheet against Espanyol, the Uruguayan international didn’t seem much bothered about it, and instead felt privileged to play alongside Lionel Messi.
Messi was at his sublime best in Barca’s 5-0 victory at home against Espanyol on Saturday and scored his 38th hat-trick for the Blaugrana.
Suarez although did get a goal of his own after Ousmane Dembele, playing in his debut game for the club provided an assist.
“It is a privilege to play with the best in the world, he continues to show that people have a long way to catch him,” Suarez said.
Meanwhile, defending champions Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Levante, meaning Barcelona are top in the La Liga points table.
Ernesto Valverde’s men now have a four-point lead over their rivals and Suarez feels each point is important as the title race can get close.
“They are three important points because they allow us to take advantage of our direct rivals slipping up, but of course, it is only the third match of the season.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 9, 2017