Ernesto Valverde knows Barcelona boss need to rectify away struggles against Granada

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Messi could make his La Liga return against Granada.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde knows his side can ill afford to let their away struggles continue for much longer, but accepts Granada will give them no helping hand this weekend.

The defending champions have won both home matches this season 5-2, brushing aside the challenges of Real Betis and Valencia with ease, but have found life on the road less comfortable.

They have won just two of their last 10 competitive away matches and none of their last six, including a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao and draws with newly-promoted Osasuna and Champions League opponents Borussia Dortmund this term.

Now they face a trip to another top-flight newcomer in Granada and Valverde admits things need to change if they are to mount a successful title defence.

He told a pre-match press conference: “Away from home we’ve not been getting good results up to now.

“It’s costing us because even in the game in Pamplona, when we overturned a deficit to lead, we weren’t able to win.

“We hope to change this dynamic and we hope it happens soon. On these grounds are championships decided.”

On paper, Granada should not pose Barcelona too much of a problem.

The Catalan giants have won 15 of the last 16 encounters between the two sides and were 4-1 victors on their last visit to the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes.

However, the Andalusian side have enjoyed a good start to life on their return to La Liga and are level with Barca on seven points after four games.

They have also scored nine times – a record only bettered by Barca and Villarreal – and Valverde has seen enough to be concerned.

He said: “They are having a good start to the season and the recently-promoted teams are dangerous. They have the positive momentum from going up.

“They are doing things well and for us it’s another problem. It’s a difficult game for us. Above all, because we haven’t won our two away games in La Liga. We can’t slip up.”

Barca are set to be boosted by the return of all-time record goalscorer Lionel Messi, who could make his first league appearance of the season after coming off the bench in midweek against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

That could spell bad news for Granada, who are looking to build on successive away wins over Espanyol and Celta Vigo.

Nevertheless, Granada coach Diego Martinez is preferring to look on the bright side of life back in the top flight, rather than what dangers may lie ahead this weekend.

He said: “Not even the most optimistic of our fans imagined we’d have seven points after four games.

“Facing Barca is not a problem, it’s a blessing considering that last September we were in the second division.”

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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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