preview | 2016-11-18
Match Preview - La Liga Round 12 - Barcelona vs Málaga
The team returns after a long international break playing at home against a tricky opponent
Barcelona return to action after a 13 day break for internationals on Saturday afternoon when Málaga come to Camp Nou. Join Grup 14 as we give a rundown on what to expect from the Andalusian side.
Málaga have had a mixed season so far and currently sit 10th in La Liga with 15 points from their 11 games. They got off to a poor start with just two points from their first four games but they have bounced back with four home wins in a row. Away from home their form isn’t as good and they are yet to win on their travels this season. In five away fixtures Málaga have picked up just two points and if they are to push into the top half and chase a place in Europe they will have to improve on that record. Their two away points came in draws with Espanyol and Alavés. While Barcelona promise to be a much tougher task than their city rivals, Espanyol, Málaga may take some comfort in the fact that they have managed to get something from their most recent trip to Barcelona.
Head to Head
Málaga have only managed to get the better of Barcelona once in their last 23 meetings with the Catalan giants, with Barça winning 19 times and the other three meetings ending in a draw. Despite that impressive record the last few games have been very tight. Last season Barça managed to win 1-0 at Camp Nou and 2-1 at La Rosaleda but in the 2014/15 season they only took one point from their two league meetings with Málaga. Early in the season Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw in Andalusia before Málaga came to Camp Nou and won 1-0. 2014/15 was the year Barcelona won their second treble and not only were Málaga the only team Barça never managed to beat at least once that season, they also failed to score a goal in the 180 minutes they played against, what was then, Javi Gracia's side.
Overall, the sides have met 78 times and Barcelona have won 54 times. Málaga hold 10 wins against Barça and the other 14 games ended in a draw. Barcelona have scored 181 goals against Málaga and conceded 55 in the 78 meetings. Lionel Messi is the top scorer from the current squads with 13 goals in the fixture.
Javi Gracia left Málaga in the summer for Rubin Kazan and he was replaced by Juande Ramos who is now in his second spell at the club. Ramos' managerial career began in 1990 with Ilcitano. He then had spells with Alcoyano and Levante before guiding Legrones to promotion to the top flight in 1996. That earned him a move to Catalunya where he had a spell with Barcelona B. After leaving Barça B he managed Lleida before winning the second promotion of his career with Rayo Vallecano. Spells with Betis and Espanyol followed before he arrived for his first stint with Málaga in 2003. Next up he moved to Sevilla in 2005 and it was there that he enjoyed the best years of his career. In just over two years he won two UEFA Cups, the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. That success saw him move to Tottenham in 2007 and he won the League Cup with the North London side in 2008. That wasn't enough to keep him in a job and he was sacked later that year before taking over at Real Madrid. Barça won the title that season which saw Ramos lose his job. In 2009 Ramos went to Russia but last just six weeks in charge of CSKA Moscow. A year later he was appointed manager of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and he seemed to enjoy life in Ukraine as he stayed for almost four years, his longest spell as a manager at any club in his career. After leaving Dnipro, Ramos spent two years without a managerial job until he returned to Málaga in the summer.
Injuries and Suspensions
Juande Ramos has a few selection headaches for the trip to Catalunya with no fewer than six players ruled out. Ignacio Camacho is suspended and Weligton, Charles Dias, Recio, Keko Gontan and Zdravko Kuzmanovic will join him on the sidelines due to injury. With all those absentees the Málaga squad will include quite a few youngsters with no less than 10 of the 18 man squad 23 years old or younger.
Barcelona have their own selection issues with Luis Suarez suspended and Andres Iniesta and Samuel Umtiti still injured. However, Luis Enrique will be able to call on Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu who were injured before the international break but have since returned to fitness.
Juande Ramos has mostly moved between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 so far this season. A lot of opposition managers have played three central defenders against Barcelona this season but all the indications at present are that Málaga will start with a 4-2-3-1.
GK - Carlos Kameni (32 years old)
The Cameroon international can be one of the best goalkeepers in the world on his day and he has form for doing well against the bigger sides. Kameni spent eight years with Barça's city rivals, Espanyol between 2004 and 2012.
RB - Roberto Rosales (27 years old)
The Venezuelan spent time with Genk (Belgium) and Twente (Netherlands) before moving to Málaga in 2014. He won domestic cups in both Belgium and the Netherlands and he is also a two-time Johan Cruijff Shield (the Dutch Super Cup) winner.
CB - Miguel Torres (30 years old)
The Madrid born defender began his career with Real where he worked his way up through the ranks to eventually make over 60 appearances for the first team. Spells at Getafe and Olympiakos followed before he joined Málaga in 2014.
CB - Mikel Villanueva (23 years old)
The Venezuela international first moved to Málaga on loan last summer where he had a year with the B team. After impressing for them they signed him on a permanent deal in May and promoted him to the first team squad.
LB - Federico Ricca (21 years old)
The Uruguayan joined the club in the winter transfer window from Danubio in his home country. Ricca helped Danubio win the Uruguayan Primera División in 2013/14.
CM - Pablo Fornals (20 years old)
Fornals has been at Málaga since he was 16 years old and has worked his way up from the youths right to the first team. He earned his first cap for Spain in a friendly just before the Euros.
CM - Diego Llorente (23 years old)
Llorente has been at Real Madrid since childhood but has struggled to get in the first team. He spent last year on loan at Rayo Vallecano and he is on loan at Málaga this season. Llorente made his Spain debut in the summer (in the same game as Pablo Fornals).
RW - Chory Castro (32 years old)
The Uruguayan has been playing in Spain since 2007. He made over 100 appearances in all competitions for both Mallorca and Real Sociedad before joining Málaga in the winter transfer window.
AM - Juanpi (22 years old)
The Venezuelan moved to Europe in 2009 and he has been at Málaga ever since. He scored his first international goal two months ago when Venezuela held Argentina to a 2-2 draw in World Cup Qualifying.
LW - Juankar (26 years old)
He came through the Real Madrid system as a youngster but only ever made one appearance for his hometown club. Juankar moved to Braga in 2011 but has never played for them and instead has been loaned to Zaragoza, Betis, Granada and now Málaga.
CF - Sandro (21 years old)
The striker is a product of La Masia but left to join Málaga in the summer. Sandro was in the squad for much of Luis Enrique's successes over the last two years and made 32 appearances for Barcelona's first team.
Others in contention
Jony (25 years old)
Jony spent time at La Masia in his youth but went to Oviedo in 2010. He moved to Málaga in the summer after three years with Sporting Gijón.
Duda (36 years old)
The Portuguese veteran has spent most of his years as a professional with Málaga over two spells. He first joined from Cadiz in 2001 before leaving for Sevilla in 2006. One of his three years there was spent on loan at Málaga before he returned permanently in 2009.
Javier Ontiveros (19 years old)
The young winger has been at Málaga since he was 13 and made his first team debut this time last year when he came on as a sub against Espanyol.
Michael Santos (23 years old)
The Uruguayan joined Málaga in the summer after eight years at River Plate. He helped Uruguay under-23's win the Pan American Games in 2015.
Youssef En-Nesyri (19 years old)
The Moroccan moved to Málaga in 2015 from Académie Mohammed VI de Football in his home country. He made his international debut in a friendly at the start of the season and he will be hoping to get in the squad for the African Cup of Nations in January.
Luis Munoz (19 years old)
The young defender has been called up from the youth team and if he gets on it will be his professional debut.
Kameni has been a thorn in Barça's side numerous times throughout his career and he could be the biggest threat to Barcelona picking up all three points on Saturday afternoon. The Cameroon international has often saved his best for the big occasion and he will be looking forward to coming up against Barça. In this fixture last year the goalkeeper produced a superb display to keep Málaga in the game although in the end he was to blame for the only goal of the game when Thomas Vermaelen blasted home after he was unable to hold onto a cross. If Kameni brings his best game to Camp Nou it could be a difficult afternoon for Barcelona and the forwards will have to be at their best to beat him.
The Real Madrid loanee has played most of his football in defence this season but he is expected to line up in midfield on Saturday. Llorente has been talked about for a long time and at 23 years old he needs to prove himself if he is going to have a future at his parent club. He had a good season at Rayo Vallecano last year but if he is to become the player Real believed he could be then this would be a great place to make a statement. Barça have had issues in midfield this season and it could be a place for Málaga to put pressure on. Ignacio Camacho's absence leaves a huge void and Juande Ramos will be looking to Llorente to step up and fill it.
If Málaga are to get anything from the game they will need goals from their top scorer. Sandro, who left Barcelona in the summer, has made a great start to his time in Andalusia with five goals and an assist already this season. Luis Enrique gave the striker a lot of chances at Barcelona but he was never really able to make enough of an impact to cement his place as Luis Suarez's back up. Ironically, Suarez is injured for this game and Barça will have Paco Alcacer, who was signed to replace Sandro, in attack. Alcacer has struggled in front of goal for his new club and Sandro will be keen to show that he should still be at the club and considering Barcelona's record of conceding goals to former players it wouldn't be advisable to bet against him scoring on Saturday.
Saturday's game will be refereed by Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea. He is just 30 years old and made his top flight refereeing debut in August 2015 when he took charge of Levante and Celta de Vigo.
Barcelona have won all four games Bengoetxea has refereed them in. In those games he has booked five Barça players and awarded them one penalty. Málaga have won two and lost three of their last five games with Bengoetxea in charge. In those games he has given Málaga players 12 yellow cards and one red card as well as giving them one penalty and awarding one against them.
Málaga gave Barcelona some very good games under Javi Gracia and while the style of play under Juande Ramos is different I suspect they will revert to a more defensive style on Saturday and look to hit Barcelona on the counter. Barça haven't been firing on all cylinders this season but they should still be strong enough to win here, perhaps by a 3-1 scoreline and wouldn't it be great to see Paco Alcacer get that elusive first Barcelona goal.
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WRITTEN BY: Gerry Johnston
Gerry Johnston is a 31 year old Civil Servant from County Antrim, Ireland. Gerry has been writing about football for various websites since Euro 2012 and he has been a Barcelona fan since the mid 90s.