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.
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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.