Having all but secured their place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals with a resounding victory over Espanyol, Barcelona have the chance to return to the top of La Liga when Granada visit Camp Nou on Saturday.
Luis Enrique’s men ran out 4-1 winners in a heated Catalan derby contest on Wednesday as Lionel Messi’s brace helped the holders build up a healthy first-leg advantage aided by the dismissals of Herman Perez and Papakouli Diop late on.
The latter was shown a second yellow card following a confrontation with Luis Suarez who, in turn, is alleged to have sparked a bust-up between both sets of players in the tunnel afterwards.
It means Barca will travel to Cornella El Prat with progression all-but assured and can bolster their defence of another trophy this weekend against struggling Granada before Liga leaders Atletico Madrid visit Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Three draws from their last four Liga outings has seen Barca slip two points behind Atletico – having played a game less – although Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are now able to boost Barca’s title hopes.
The pair made their Barca debuts against Espanyol – having been ineligible for the last six months due to the club’s transfer ban from FIFA.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this day and it finally happened,” Vidal said of his debut. “We’re very thankful for the way people appreciate the effort we made while awaiting the expiration of the sanction.
“This was not an easy game to make a debut. I think Arda was up to the task but I came out when the game was a bit more locked up.”
Jose Ramon Sandoval’s Granada suffered contrasting fortunes to Barca in their Copa first leg, going down 4-0 to Valencia at Mestalla, having moved out of La Liga’s bottom three at the weekend.
Sunday’s 2-1 win over Sevilla was enough to move Granada up to 17th although Sandoval’s men will be wary of a trip to Camp Nou following their 6-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season.
Reflecting on their midweek defeat, Sandoval told reporters: “We did not deserve to be lose by so much. In the second half, the two penalties, that sums it up.
“I do not think it was a game that reflected a 4-0 scoreline. Valencia have won with two strikes and two penalties. Without producing an intense performance we have not been able to get into the game.
“Now we go to the Camp Nou and we know it will be a difficult game because they always have the ball, but my team will always try prove themselves.”
Key Opta Stats
– Barcelona have won 11 of their last 12 league games against Granada.
– Granada have won just one of their last eight games away from home in La Liga
– Barca have lost just one of their last 52 La Liga games against Andalusian sides at Camp Nou
– Lionel Messi has scored eight goals in his seven La Liga appearances against Granada.
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