Granada could face a Barcelona backlash on Saturday as the defending La Liga champions aim to recover from their UEFA Champions League exit.
Barca were eliminated from Europe’s premier club competition by title rivals and league leaders Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, succumbing to a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Diego Simeone’s men after losing the second leg 1-0.
That defeat ended the Catalan club’s hopes of a quadruple, and Gerardo Martino’s men will now need to refocus their efforts on retaining the league crown they won in dominant fashion last term.
Martino’s men are one point behind Atletico and two ahead of fierce rivals Real Madrid with six games remaining in an enthralling title race that promises to go to the wire.
Any slip up could be extremely damaging to Barca’s hopes of a 23rd Spanish title, especially with Atletico and Real facing strugglers Getafe and Almeria respectively.
But Barca should travel to Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes as heavy favourites, after winning all five contests since Granada returned to the top flight in 2011-12 after a 35-year absence.
Barca cruised to a 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou in November but Granada defender Dimitri Foulquier insists Lucas Alcaraz’s men have nothing to fear.
“They’re (Barcelona) a team with very good players, but they’re still just men and we shouldn’t fear anyone,” Foulquier said.
“What they did yesterday (Wednesday in the Champions League), doesn’t matter to us.
“All we’re focused on is the match on Saturday and we’ll have to give everything we’ve got, to get a draw or a win.”
Granada head into the game on a dismal run of three straight defeats that has kept them firmly in the relegation picture.
Alcaraz’s side are just three points above the relegation zone in 15th following a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Malaga, and could be dragged further into the mire if results go against them this weekend.
Moroccan forward Youssef El-Arabi has been one of the few bright spots for Granada, finding the net on 12 occasions in the league this season.
Granada – who approach the encounter without any injury worries – will hope that El-Arabi will be able to exploit a Barcelona defence that is minus goalkeeper Victor Valdes (knee) and centre-back Gerard Pique (hip) due to serious injuries, while Carles Puyol is still struggling with a knee problem.
And with next Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final with Real on the horizon, it would come as no surprise if Martino opted to shuffle his pack ahead of that crucial third Clasico of the campaign.
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