Barcelona seek to end run of poor away results as they take on Granada

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Barcelona return to league action after a challenging Champions League outing against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

The Spanish giants were held to a goalless draw at Westfalenstadion after Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced a incredible display between the sticks.

Ernesto Valverde’s men must now turn their focus to La Liga action as they travel to Granada.

We take a look at the talking points ahead of the match.

What next for Ansu Fati?

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati

The 16-year-old sensation was the talk of the town after a sensational showing against Valencia last week.

The Guinea-Bissau forward scored in the second minute before providing the assist for Frenkie de Jong’s strike just five minutes later.

Fati earned a spot in Barcelona’s starting line-up against Dortmund, on the back of his stellar display last weekend, to become their youngest representative in Europe.

However, he was anonymous for most parts of the game and looked overawed by the occasion.

With Lionel Messi close to full fitness, will Valverde send Fati back to Barcelona B side or will he hand him a start ahead of the Argentine on Saturday?

Another option would see Fati and Messi both start with Antoine Griezmann in the centre. Suarez – who was dismal against Dortmund – will then have to pay the price.

Will Granada add to Barcelona’s away woes?

barcelona

The Catalan side’s poor away record is put into perspective by the fact that they have won none of their last six games in all competitions away from the Camp Nou.

Barcelona last won away at Alaves on April 24 – nearly five months ago. In the new season so far, they crashed to a defeat against Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames before being held to a draw by newly promoted Osasuna at El Sadar Stadium.

Valverde’s men will travel to Granada hoping to break the away jinx, but are well aware that they need to produce a massive display.

Granada have won each of their last two games without conceding a single goal. They beat Espanyol 3-0 before netting twice against Celta Vigo.

Granada have scored nine goals in four games already, only failing to score against table-toppers Sevilla.

Barcelona won 4-1 the last time they visited Granada but the dynamics are different now. Diego Martinez’s side could hence make the visitors work hard for the three points.

Sergio Busquets on the bench?

Busquets

At his peak, Busquets was arguably the best in his position in the world. But the Spaniard has experienced a steady decline over the past few months, committing several errors that have led to goalscoring chances.

Dortmund won the midfield battle on Tuesday despite De Jong and Arthur producing encouraging displays in the centre of the park. With this, the finger of blame points towards Busquets who was overrun by his opponents and could not impose himself.

Valverde should look at resting the 31-year-old more regularly instead of throwing him back into action four days after their goalless draw against Dortmund. The Catalans host Villarreal next Tuesday and that would be an ideal time to have Busquets next in action in order to give his body sufficient rest.

Ivan Rakitic – who is yet to start a game this season – is a candidate for Busquets’ position and could do a solid job.

Valverde could also consider shifting De Jong to defensive midfield and having Carles Alena in front of him. Arturo Vidal is another option who can play anywhere in midfield.

It’s time Busquets’ status as an undisputed starter is questioned, especially with the abundance in quality at Valverde’s disposal.

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See Marc-Andre ter Stegen warn Barcelona of Dortmund threat in Champions League opener

Sport360 staff 17/09/2019
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Marc-Andre ter Stegen has warned his Barcelona team-mates of the dangers posed by opponents Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener on Tuesday night.

The German goalkeeper says he hopes to start the competition right, especially after Barca’s embarrassing semi-final exit at the hands of eventual champions Liverpool last season.

Beaten 4-3 after losing the Anfield leg 4-0 having won 3-0 at the Camp Nou, Ernesto Valverde’s men are in Group F this time round – and start their campaign with a tough tie at free-scoring Dortmund.

There are doubts about Lionel Messi’s fitness, and hopes among many that the scintillating Ansu Fati starts. If he does, at the age of 16, he will become the youngest Barca starter in their Champions League history.


“It’s clearly not easy to play here in Dortmund, last time I was here with Borussia Moenchengladbach we were made to suffer by BVB,” said Ter Stegen.







“But this time we will try to win the match. The competition begins now and we hope to start it right, with a successful first game to enter the group matches in good spirits.”



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Arthur and Frenkie de Jong can forge Barcelona's next great midfield partnership

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Barcelona have yearned for a reliable midfield duo ever since the legendary partnership between Andres Iniesta and Xavi was broken.

The demands in these roles are high, especially given the possession-oriented style that has always been their biggest strength. The midfielders are expected to not only control the game but do so with panache.

The Catalans have always valued results as highly as the means to earn them and prefer fluidity in their football over just the three points. Press-resistant midfielders capable of maintaining tempo and breaking through the lines with their array of passes are crucial to their success.

Ivan Rakitic, Paulinho, Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes and Arturo Vidal were tried in midfield to fill the void left by Xavi and Iniesta but none could replicate the effect the legendary duo had on a game.

Enter Arthur and Frenkie de Jong. The Brazilian midfielder joined the Spanish giants ahead of the 2018/19 season and instantaneously fit in. Arthur displayed traits that soon drew comparisons with Xavi.

De Jong joined Barcelona this summer after a break-out season with Ajax during which he played a pivotal role in their success. The Dutchman is just the sort of holding midfielder capable of facilitating Johann Cruyff’s philosophy, making him a perfect fit at a club like Barcelona.

The Dutchman is versatile having spent time at Ajax deployed as a centre-back before he stamped his authority in midfield. De Jong was not just a defensive screen but an integral part of the attack, orchestrating his side’s build-up play.

The 22-year-old’s range as a midfielder continued to grow as he honed his ability to advance the ball either with the incisive passes or dribbles through the middle.

There was a lot of anticipation over how these two players would perform together in the same system. It was not until Barcelona’s La Liga tie against Valencia on Saturday that the duo would make a first starting appearance in the line-up.

One game is definitely not a large enough sample size but the signs at Camp Nou were incredibly promising. De Jong scored, assisted and registered 53 passes without misplacing a single one. He also completed all three of the dribbles he attempted to cap off a Man of the Match performance.

Arthur earned an assist and maintained a passing accuracy of 96 per cent, misplacing just three of the 69 passes he attempted. But the Brazilian’s impact transcends numbers. He played a crucial role in maintaining the tempo against a pressing Valencia side. His immense control in midfield allowed De Jong to play more progressively.

Lionel Messi will be relieved to find that the duo managed five key-passes against Valencia. This means that the creative burden will be eased off the Argentine when the two midfielders feature. And Messi, freed from the shackles of having to drop deep too often can focus on being more dangerous in the final third.

Individually, De Jong and Arthur can’t be compared to Xavi and Iniesta based on quality but their chemistry does bear shades of the one the former midfielders enjoyed in years gone by.

The duo could bring back the dominance in midfield that Barcelona have been famous for and take them a step closer to moving on from that famous Xavi-Iniesta midfield era.

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