On paper Saturday’s game against Malaga should be an easy 90 minutes for Barcelona who return to league action after dropping their first points of the campaign so far last time out with a 1-1 draw at Atletico.
Starting the matchday four points clear at the top, the Blaugrana will be expecting to win against the bottom side whose only point so far came in a 3-3 draw against Athletic Bilbao at La Rosaleda on matchday six.
However, recent history goes against the Catalan side: in the last six meetings between the two, Barça have won twice, Malaga likewise, and the other two were draws, making the Blue and Whites something of a ‘bogey team’.
Surprisingly, the aggregate score between Malaga and Barcelona in their last six La Liga meetings is 4-3 in the Costa del Sol side’s favour.
Malaga took four points from their two meetings with Barça last term, beating the Catalan giants at home and drawing at the Camp Nou.
However, this time around the odds are firmly stacked against them. So far Barcelona have bagged 24 goals in the league so far this season, the best in the top flight, while Malaga have the joint-worst defensive record, conceding 18 in the first eight matches.
Ernesto Valverde, who has been reflecting on his first hundred days as boss, has called up the same 18 players that made up his Champions League squad for the Olympiakos clash, with Lucas Digne expected to start again at left-back in Jordi Alba’s absence.
Ivan Rakitic could return in place of Paulinho while up front, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez will most likely play alongside Gerard Deulofeu.
“These 100 days have not been boring,” Valverde said during his pre-match press conference. “Let’s hope the next 100 are quieter.
“Our intention is to be strong in La Liga and then to win everything. But to win everything, the first thing is La Liga, which is what we have in front of us.”
His counterpart Michel promised his team wouldn’t just sit back and had every intention of playing for the points, but his side will have to do so with an extensive injury list which this week claimed goalkeeper Roberto, meaning rookie Andres Prieto will start in goal as Roberto is injured.
“We’re going there with our own intentions,” said the Malaga boss. “We’ve been working all week to find solutions and we know that, even so, it’s not easy. There are three points at stake and we’re going to fight for them as long as we can, and if it’s until the end, then all the better.”
His captain, Recio, also misses out through suspension, while Zdravko Kuzmanovic remains on the treatment table.
Wingers Jony and Javi Ontiveros are carrying knocks but Borja Baston makes his return.