Messi on bench again for Granada clash

By Sports Desk September 21, 2019

Lionel Messi is on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga trip to Granada on Saturday.

Messi, who missed the start of the season with a calf injury, made his first appearance of 2019-20 as a substitute in the goalless Champions League draw away to Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

But with coach Ernesto Valverde easing the club captain back into action, Messi remains out of the starting XI for the trip to Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Luis Suarez starts after making a goalscoring return to fitness from the bench against Valencia last weekend, featuring in attack with Antoine Griezmann.

There is no place in the Barcelona side for teenager Ansu Fati, who has two LaLiga goals already this season, with Carles Perez replacing him in the XI.

With Jordi Alba sidelined by injury, left-back Junior Firpo makes his first LaLiga start since joining Barcelona from Real Betis, while Ivan Rakitic is in a LaLiga line-up for the first time this season.

Barca have taken a single point from their two away games in the league, following an opening weekend loss at Athletic Bilbao with a 2-2 draw at Osasuna.

However, the Spanish champions have won 15 of their past 16 LaLiga matches against Granada, including each the previous six with 21 goals scored and only two conceded in that run.

Related items

  • Simeone praises goal-shy duo Costa & Morata Simeone praises goal-shy duo Costa & Morata

    Diego Simeone praised the enthusiasm of Atletico Madrid strikers Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata despite their struggles in front of goal this season.

    Atleti have just one win from their past five LaLiga games but are only three points behind leaders and city rivals Real Madrid.

    Simeone's men have drawn a blank in each of the four encounters they have failed to win in this stretch.

    Costa and Morata have each scored only once in the league so far this campaign, but Simeone sees little reason to be concerned about the duo.

    "I think they are great, they're doing good, even if they haven't proved it with goals yet - and I know that's their bread and butter," Simeone told a media conference. 

    "I think their involvement, predisposition and their will to improve is awesome. I hope they keep it that way, it's their challenge

    "They both scored one goal in La Liga, Morata played less than Diego but I see both are enthusiastic. I can see they want to improve.

    "We have to keep calm and know they are two important players for this club and the team. We hope that they will start scoring soon since it's part of their lives, [but] I sincerely think they're doing good."

    Atletico welcome Valencia to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, with Simeone hoping his players hit their stride quickly upon returning from the international break.

    "When they come back from the national team, it is not easy," Simeone added. "They're playing more and more games with the national team and that's difficult for the teams and obviously for the players as well.

    "They play almost every day. We hope they adapt again really fast to the club and competition.

    "Tomorrow's game is against a competitive and historic team like Valencia, they are really powerful at recovering and counter-attacking.

    "A few things are changing with [Albert] Celades from what it was with Marcelino, but obviously the team already had a structure and I imagine the coach is combining it to do the best for the team.

    "They are dangerous, dynamic and have a dangerous counter-attack, and we think that's the way our rival will play tomorrow."

  • Dembele appeal rejected but winger available for postponed Clasico Dembele appeal rejected but winger available for postponed Clasico

    Barcelona's appeal to have Ousmane Dembele's two-game ban reduced to one has been rejected by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

    Dembele was sent off in the closing minutes of Barca's 4-0 LaLiga win over Sevilla this month following a confrontation with referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz, who had just given debutant Ronald Araujo a red card for a foul on Javier Hernandez.

    Barcelona's initial appeal against Dembele's red card was dismissed and he was ruled out of the club's next two league matches.

    With the France forward seemingly set to miss the Clasico against Real Madrid, which had been scheduled for October 26, Barca then attempted to have his ban halved.

    Their efforts proved in vain but Dembele will now be available for the first LaLiga Clasico of the season, with the fixture having been postponed due to safety concerns amid the ongoing political tensions and protests in Catalonia.

    Instead, the former Borussia Dortmund star will miss Saturday's match against Eibar and the meeting with Real Valladolid a week on Tuesday.

    The Camp Nou Clasico appears set to be played on December 18 after both Barca and Madrid proposed the date on Friday.

    Dembele has made three league appearances for Barca this season, scoring once - against Sevilla.

  • Umtiti and Junior fit to return for Barcelona at Eibar Umtiti and Junior fit to return for Barcelona at Eibar

    Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo have been passed fit to play a part in Barcelona's LaLiga clash with Eibar on Saturday.

    Centre-back Umtiti is yet to feature this season and has been out for the past six weeks with a foot injury.

    Meanwhile, versatile left-back Junior last featured in the 2-0 win over Getafe on September 28, scoring his first Barca goal, before a hamstring complaint.

    Both players were named in Thursday's travelling squad and then took part in Friday's training session ahead of the early kick-off on Saturday.

    The LaLiga champions, who are second in the table after three straight wins, confirmed the duo had been cleared to play.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.