Good morning Barcelona fans, and welcome to the Barca blog from Sport360 this Saturday.
Our team will be here during the day to bring you everything Blaugrana, whether it be news, views, gossip or features.
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9:50pm – Valverde putting off decision on future
Ernesto Valverde insists it is too early to discuss a potential renewal of his Barcelona contract.
6:45pm – Dembele earning stripes in Barca front three
Read Brendon Netto‘s talking points ahead of the clash.
12:51pm – Paul Scholes names Andres Iniesta as his greatest opponent
Paul Scholes named Barcelona great Andres Iniesta as the greatest footballer he ever played against during his career.
The Manchester United legend was speaking at a charity dinner on Thursday night.
Read on here.
11:43am – Eden Hazard in same league as Lionel Messi, says Pedro
Eden Hazard is in the same league as Lionel Messi according to Chelsea teammate Pedro.
The Spaniard, who played alongside Messi for eight years at Barcelona, believes Hazard deserves to be considered one of the best players in the world and says his Belgian attack partner is world class.
Read more from Pedro here.
10:28am – Barcelona to step up pursuit of Paul Pogba
Barcelona Will step up their pursuit of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba as they are planning to watch every single game he plays in this season.
Read more on this here.
The Catalans are coming on the back of a fine 4-0 thumping of PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League as well.
Here’s a look at some topics of discussion ahead of the encounter.
DEMBELE GROWING INTO ROLE
Ousmane Dembele’s Barcelona career is still in its infancy but given his transfer fee – which could amount to €147 million after add-ons – he’s been subjected to some pretty harsh criticism. The fact he was seen as Neymar’s replacement hasn’t helped either.
His first season at the club was blighted by injury and he has sometimes been a little hit and miss. People are quick to forget though Dembele is still only 19 and the fact is, he’s directly contributed to a goal every 95 minutes so far for Barcelona.
This season, the young Frenchman is starting to grow into his role as a prominent part of Barca’s front three alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. With four goals in five appearances this term, Dembele is showing encouraging signs and needs to retain his place in the starting XI as far as possible to maintain his momentum.
With Real Madrid slipping up last week as they were held to a draw away to a committed Athletic Bilbao side, Barcelona are now the only La Liga side with a 100 per cent record intact this season.
They did have to dig deep away from home and grind out a couple of narrow victories – 1-0 at Valladolid and 2-1 at Real Sociedad. However, a return to the comforts of Camp Nou will bode well for them this weekend. Their form on home soil this season in all competitions has been excellent.
They’ve scored 15 goals over two league fixtures and one Champions League game at home this season and history suggests Girona are unlikely to stem the flow. The Blaugrana ran riot in an emphatic 6-1 victory in this fixture last season while also securing a 3-0 win in the away clash.
Barcelona began in a similar vein of form last season and the league title was effectively decided by December with Atletico Madrid and Real struggling in the first half of the campaign, handing the Catalans an insurmountable lead.
Despite a setback last weekend, Los Blancos are unlikely to suffer from such a sluggish start this term as the team is beginning to click under new manager Julen Lopetegui.
Maintaining this momentum is a necessity for Barcelona this time if they are to retain their title.’
NEW SIGNINGS MUST START
For the aforementioned reasons, Girona at home should be a simple enough outing for Barcelona so it would make perfect sense for Ernesto Valverde to give some of the new members in the squad a run out.
Time on the pitch is precious and with a congested fixtures schedule ahead, the Barca boss will need his fringe players to step up, but before he can rely on them in more testing circumstances, they must be afforded the chance to settle in during match scenarios.
Arturo Vidal, a decorated midfielder and seasoned professional, has only appeared off the bench so far this season. A start for the 31-year-old sooner rather than later would go a long way towards preparing him for challenges ahead.
The same could be said for another midfield acquisition almost 10 years the Chilean’s junior. Arthur has only played 34 minutes for his new side so far and will be hungry for some game time.
Meanwhile in defence, Barca signed one of the most sought-after young centre-backs in Clement Lenglet over the summer but the Frenchman, like Arthur, has only seen 34 minutes of action so far. With Samuel Umtiti picking up a sending off in the Champions League, it would make sense to give Lenglet more playing time before he will have to feature in their trip to face Tottenham next month.
The Mirror report the Catalan club are keeping close tabs on the Frenchman, and allegedly had ‘spies’ watching Pogba as he scored twice and provided an assist in a scintillating performance during United’s 3-0 midweek Champions League victory over Swiss champions Young boys.
The Spanish champions failed in their attempts to sign the France World Cup-winning star in the summer and are now plotting to swoop again for the player at the end of the season, with a bid in excess of £100m being mooted.