Granada vs. Barça: That Which Defines Them


A challenging fortnight begins for Barça with an away game to Granada.

With no mid-week game last week, the team even had 2 days off and 6 days in total to recover and prepare for what will be a decisive and intense 15 days.

Prepare yourselves, culés!

16th Feb: Granada vs. Barça (La Liga @ 20:00 CET)
20th Feb: AC Milan vs. Barça (Champions League @ 20:45 CET)
23rd Feb: Barça vs. Sevilla (La Liga @ 22:00 CET)
26th Feb: Barça vs. Real Madrid (Copa del Rey @ 21:00 CET)
2nd Mar: Real Madrid vs. Barça (La Liga @ 16:00 CET)

These will be the matches in which the results will determine whether the team will make it hard or easy for themselves for the rest of the season.

~ Wins or draws in La Liga will strengthen their hold on the lead.
~ A win at San Siro (a.k.a. Stadio Giuseppe Meazza) will give them an upper hand in this CL knock-out leg.
~ A win (or a highly unlikely 0-0 draw) in the CdR sees the team progress to the Final against either At. Madrid or Sevilla.

One step at a time, beginning with tonight’s game.


Granada’s Coach

“The team has to face every game without dwelling on past performances. Prior to every game, I always have to think about what things will be of benefit to the team and what will improve it. If you think optimistically that things will turn out well, you can often get a good result.” ~ Lucas Alcaraz in this week’s press conference.

Poor results prior to Christmas had Granada’s former coach, Juan Antonio Anquela, dumped out of his job after the first game of 2013. In came Lucas Alcaraz.

Alcaraz is one of a rare breed of football managers who didn’t play football in any serious capacity prior to becoming a coach. He’s no stranger to Granada – born and bred in the city – and his first coaching job was at Granada CF between 1995 and 1998 while they were in the 3rd Division.

Since then, he’s gone through 10 other mostly unsuccessful stints with other teams (including 2 at Almeria) before landing back at Granada.

It’s as if he knows that this is probably his last chance to prove himself, (or maybe he’s happier now that he’s back in his home town), because the team results have been largely successful since he took over.


Where does Granada Stand?
In the 5 games under Alcaraz, Granada has lost to Sevilla, drawn with Getafe and won against Rayo, Real Madrid and Deportivo.

Those first 2 games are notable victories. Rayo is currently 6th on the Liga Table and doing good things. This puts them in Europa League contention, although they’re being hotly pursued by Sociedad, Betis and Levante.

The win against Madrid was remarkable, given that they won 1-0 without a single shot on goal in the entire game. A headed Cristiano own-goal gave them the extraordinary victory, much to the rapturous delight of their partisan home crowd.

Sitting 14th with 26 points, Granada can’t afford to relax, especially with Bilbao (26 points), Zaragoza (24) and Osasuna (22) close behind and the only buffer between them and the relegation spots. (Mind you, the way in which Celta, Mallorca and Depor are playing at the moment, it’s going to take some small miracles to shift them out of relegation.)


The Club
Without looking too deeply into it, I reckon that Granada has one of the most International teams there is, with players from Spain, Argentina, Cameroon, Morocco, Algeria, Brazil, Senegal, Colombia, Romania and Nigeria in their ranks.

Out of the 13 Granada players that are currently out on-loan, there are also reps from Ghana, Czech Republic, Scotland, Switzerland, Chile and Venezuela.

That’s 16 different countries.  We only had 13 different nationalities at our wedding!

In 2009, the club was in such dire financial straits that it almost folded. Salvation came in the form of a partnership with Italian Club Udinese Calcio. Granada is now the recipient of on-loan players from Udinese as well as helping to develop its youth players and reserves.

The club currently has 4 players in its First Team on-loan from Udinese – Cameroonian Allan Nyom, Spaniard Dani Benítez (Dani Alves’ nemesis), Romanian Gabriel Torje and Nigerian Odion Ighalo.

After 22 years in lower divisions, Granada regained entry into the Liga Primera last season. They were almost demoted (losing their last game of the season to Rayo), but finished in 17th after Villarreal was heart-breakingly defeated (by At. Madrid) to take the last demotion spot.


New Players for the Club
Granada was very active in the January transfer window and picked up some solid players to reinforce their squad: 3 Mid-fielders and 1 Forward.

Former Barça B player, Nolito, has arrived on-loan from Benfica. He supplied the corner kick from which Cristiano scored to give Granada the win against Madrid, so you could say that his impact has been immediate!

Perhaps one of the more surprising moves was that of Argentinean Diego Buonanotte from Málaga to Granada on a 4.5 year contract. Just as he was starting to be more called upon by Pellegrini (Buananotte scored that sublime free-kick against Barça back in January), he upped sticks and left, claiming that he needed more playing time. (Diego’s personal – and playing life – were severely hampered by a car accident on an Argentine freeway in 2009 in which he lost control of the car that he was driving. 3 friends in the car were killed and Diego sustained serious injuries. Initially his recovery time was set at 7 months, but within 5 months he was back on the pitch playing on-loan at River Plate.)

José Luis García del Pozo (b.k.a. Recio) is on-loan from Málaga and scored his first goal for the club in the 2-0 win against Rayo.

32yo Forward Carlos Aranda has joined Granada from Zaragoza. A former Madrid Academy player, after leaving RM in 2001 Aranda has done the rounds of a lot of Spanish clubs before returning to Granada for his second stint at the club.


Old Familiars
Perhaps the thorn in the side of Barça, as far as the Granada team is concerned, is their GK Antonio Rodríguez Martínez, (b.k.a. Toño) who, like Valencia’s Diego Alves, can seemingly get into the minds of the Blaugrana players and stop them from scoring goals. Toño had a great game at Camp Nou earlier this season where he made fingertip save after save. It wasn’t until a determined Xavi was subbed on and blasted a high shot (that made it into the net after bouncing off the underside of the bar) that the stalemate was broken in the 86th minute, and the home side went on to win 2-0 after a Messi shot rebounded off Granada’s Borja.

Young Romanian Right-winger Gabriel Torje will be one to watch. He was the stand-out player in the game against Madrid a couple of weeks ago.

Moroccan NT Forward, Yousef El-Arabi has 4 goals credited to him for this season. Together with Brazilian Left-back Guilherme Siqueria who also has 4 goals, they lead the Goal Tally table for Granada.

The recognised play-maker for the team is 31yo Brazilian Iriney Santos da Silva. Whenever he’s on the pitch, you can be sure that the ball cycles through him and he’s a go-to guy for set pieces.

Sitting out injured are 2 players. The down-and-dirty street-fighter that is the Left-back/Mid-fielder Dani Benítez has a hamstring injury and Mid-fielder Fran Rico is sporting a knee injury.


The Travelling Blauberries
Dos Santos is once more mopping the floors and turning off the lights at home; injured Xavi wins time with Núria; David Villa recovers from kidney stones and gets more huggy-time with Luca, and Abidal is waiting for final clearance which may turn into a Roving Ambassador role for the club if he can’t play again.

The squad is:  Valdés, Pinto, Dani Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Thiago, Busquets, Song, Iniesta, Fàbregas, Alexis, Pedro, Messi and Tello.

I expect that Puyol may get a seat on the bench to rest him for the Milan game, as will Iniesta.

My guess at the line-up would be: VV, Alves, Piqué, Masch, Alba, Thiago, Busi, Cesc, Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

The team, Tito and Jordi will be wanting a win to regain some successful away form after the loss to Sociedad and the draw against Valencia.


The game kicks off at 20:00 CET on Saturday 16th February

Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Granada CF vs. FC Barcelona

Streams for the match are usually found on First Row, Roja Directa and Bar TV.

Parchis on the bus to the airport this morning
Playing Parchis on the bus to the airport this morning


  1. Big deep breath hold…Exhale slowly, Repeat.

    Good stuff as always nzm.
    I like your prediction for the line up. I wouldn’t be suprised with a Tello sub for Alexis around the 60 min mark. Hopefully we can start a decent sub rotation. This is going to be a crucial couple of weeks for us and at least we have been able to get some rest this week and also coming off of the 6-1 win so I am sure confidence is high. I must admit these away games this time of the season always make me jumpy. Mid level teams this time of year seem to be dangerous. I will be difficult for me to watch today but will probably check here for the usual play by plays from all the folks.

  2. Nice preview, nzm. I find that whenever I read a post or comment from you now I’m hearing it in a soft NZ/Fiji accent (I’ve always subvocalized while reading. It’s why I’m a slow reader.).

    I like your lineup. I’m hoping we grab a quick lead and can rest a few ahead of Wednesday (Busi, Cesc, Pedro, or *gasp* Messi). My fear is that their defense holds like against RM and we get stuck in a long, drawn out, tiring affair. And let’s not give up any corners!

    Can we take up a collection to buy the guys a few more board games? You’d think they’d be tired of only playing parchis.

    1. Teehee – my accent has scarred you for life! 😀

      I was speaking with our South African neighbour this morning, (while I was walking the dog and he was walking his kids), and my accent slipped further into a Saffie one!

  3. Every once in a while I try to watch Arsenal again… and at such times I am reminded why it’s been so long since I last bothered.

  4. Team is:
    Alves, Pique, Masch, Adriano
    Thiago, Busi, Cesc
    Pedro, Messi, Alexis

    Game on after the minute’s silence for Emilio Ruiz Baena – a Granada player from the 50s who recently died.

  5. Pique might “accidentally” pick up a card tonight so that he can sit out the Sevilla match before the clasico.

  6. Another great potential Messi assist wasted by a suboptimal first touch (first Alexis, then Cesc).

  7. 84% possession so far!!! Need to be a bit more clinical while we’re so much on top. Having said that unlucky not o get a penalty there.

  8. This is now ridiculous. Alexis is killing us. He could have had three so far and now we find ourselves 1 down. I’m gonna resist blaming Masch there as although it was his man he didn’t have a lot of time to readjust his position.

    1. All of Granada’s attacks have come down Barca’s left (though, to be fair, the entire match is being played on that side of the field). So it’s more than just Mascherano. Adriano was AWOL for the breakthrough pass.

  9. alexis. man, what a waste of money. We could just promoted the best runner form B team instead of him. Nolito looks equally good. As we say in companies, “he is a recruitment mistake”

  10. great chance by messi. I have counted 10 alexis forays on wing so far with a pass back every single time.

    1. I never thought I’d type the following words, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Tello just about now.

  11. Tonio is back up to his old tricks again.

    Alba is on. Don’t know if Adriano is hurt, but the team can certainly use the help on the left.

  12. What does it mean when you can legitimately say about a player that he’s better without the ball than with it?

    At the very least, I’d say it’s a luxury when the team is less than two goals up.

  13. We are playing like crap right now. Kinda like the first games earlier in the season, eg vs Osasuna. Something needs to change in the 2nd half.

  14. Ok. For me Ini comes on now. I’d be tempted to move Cesc or Thiago forward with Alexis coming off. Bit hard but our record since the New Year isn’t great and we can’t afford to let some bad momentum build.

  15. We might as well be playing Tello if we’re going to jut send in crosses to find the towering heads of Messi and Pedro…

  16. If Messi is our luxury player and we can only afford one on the field at a time then what the hell is Sanchez doing there. I don’t care how much he tracks back on def or whatever else is this special quality he is deemed to bring to the side. You’re on the forward line you are supposed to score goals when the opportunity comes. And its not like he’s not getting them. This is a world class side and its expected that you take your chances if you’re a starter. Gimme Villa scoring goals and not tracking back and keep Alexis “creating space” but doing jack squat when the ball is at his feet in the box.

    He may score 3 now but whatever, he is too damn wasteful for the amount of opportunities he gets.

    1. To hell with that. Villa’s record as a goal scorer speaks for itself. Frequent offsides but goals scored vs frequent opportunities in the box resulting in nothing. Which would you really take?

  17. another one on one missed by alexis. how poor is he. Worse than even oleguer i imagine. Atleast he was free

  18. hmm.I hope we score pretty late else we will concede again. somewhere in 85 minute will be fine for me.

    1. Actually it wasn’t that great – a good free kick would have been higher and close to the post. Anyway, it was good enough for the 3 points

    2. For a free kick a decent way out at a time when the pressure was on and which beat a decent keeper it’ll do for me 🙂

  19. messi. what a player. Has really tried in this game. A 8 on messi. He was sleepwalking in last few matches but he has grabbed this match by its neck and turned it around. A hat trick to round it off.

  20. now come on. Barca shouldnt switch off or start defending. we are at our weakest while defending leads.

    1. Messi loves to yell at Tello.

      In this case, I’m inclined to cut Tello some slack. That stupid linesman would have wrongly flagged Messi offside if Tello had passed the ball to him. And Tello got off a fairly decent shot.

    2. In the first situation it was completely justified – the correct play was to pass to Messi.

      In the second one, the correct play was to shoot because Messi was offside and anyway the pass would have had hard time reaching him. And I didn’t see Messi yelling at him, but I might have missed it.

    3. Messi should be encouraging Tello, and not yelling at him. He should be encouraging the junior players, and not bringing them down.

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