No places for Douglas and Masip, while Sergio Busquets is suspended and Vermaelen and Jordi Alba are injured
Tonight at 8.00pm CET, Barça defend their 4-point lead at the top of table at home to Almería in what will be Sergi Barjuan’s first game in charge of the Andalusian club.
The 18 players named for the game with Almería at the Camp Nou this evening are: Ter Stegen, Claudio Bravo, Montoya, Piqué, Rakitic, Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Dani Alves and Mathieu.
That means no places for Douglas and Masip, while Sergio Busquets is suspended and Vermaelen and Jordi Alba are injured.
This Wednesday FC Barcelona will play Almeria at Camp Nou. What do you know about previous matches between the two teams?
A midweek round of league fixtures sees Luis Enrique’s team take on the Andalusians who have former blaugrana Sergi Barjuan newly appointed as coach
The blaugranes retained their four point lead at the top of the table over Real Madrid thanks to Jérémy Mathieu’s second half winner on Sunday in the 1-0 win over Celta Vigo at Balaídos. A busy April fixture list means that Barça are back in action on Wednesday as they take on relegation threatened Almería at Camp Nou at 8.00pm CET.
Barça trained for the last time on Tuesday ahead of the clash with the Andalusians. Jordi Alba is still to receive the all clear from medical staff after picking up a hamstring injury on international duty last week. Sergio Busquets is suspended after picking up a yellow card late on in the game against Celta. The Barça coaching staff will name their squad for the game on Wednesday morning local time.
Almeria’s new coach, ex-blaugrana Sergi Barjuan, has named an 18 man squad for the trip to Camp Nou which contains two players from the club’s youth teams. Michel, Fran Vélez and Verza are missing due to injury and Argentine Dubarbier and Dos Santos both stay at home due to suspension.
Luis Enrique was clear about the seriousness of Almeria’s visit to Camp Nou in his press conference on Tuesday ahead of the clash: “If we want to win the league, then we have to make sure we win this game.” The Barça coach also joked about his former team mate Sergi taking over at the Andalusian club: “He’s a friend and I am often in contact with him. I am very glad that he’s been offered this opportunity and I hope he makes the most of it. But only from Thursday onwards!”
Barça’s win at the weekend in Vigo was their 19th victory in their last 20 matches since the defeat on 4 January against Real Sociedad in Anoeta. Almería have not won in their last seven league games and their most recent defeat, a 4-1 home reverse against Levante at the weekend, saw the club part company with coach Juan Ignacio Martínez.
Ones to watch
Jérémy Mathieu has scored twice his last two league games for Barça, helping the blaugranes to six valuable points in their quest to reclaim the league title, However, the Frenchman, if he does feature against Almería, will have to tread with caution as a booking on Wednesday will see him suspended for the game at the weekend against Sevilla. Almería have two former blaugranes in their squad to make the trip to Camp Nou – goalkeeper Rubén made three appearances for the first team back in the season 2003/04 before eventually leaving the club in 2007. Midfielder Javier Espinosa played more than 100 games for Barça B before leaving for Villarreal last summer and then joining Almería on loan in January of this year.
Almería have never beaten Barça in 13 official meetings, with two draws and 11 defeats their record in that time. In the league they have lost all five away games at Camp Nou, the latest being a 4-1 defeat last season in which Alexis, Messi, Carles Puyol and Xavi found the net for the blaugranes.
No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. And remember, you can enjoy live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The link will appear at fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.
Jérémy Mathieu has become an important part of Luis Enrique’s squad playing 2,290 minutes in 30 appearances
The Barça defender has in his job description the task of preventing goals. However, in his last two league games he himself has found the net on two separate occasions, the first against Real Madrid in the 2-1 victory in the Clásico and in the recent 1-0 away in at Celta Vigo. Both goals were key in helping the blaugranes claim six points from the last six available.
Mathieu scored his first as a blaugrana in the second leg of the last 16 Spanish Cup tie against Elche in the 4-0 away win. The Frenchman found the net with an excellent free kick in that game and now with 30 appearances as a Barça player under his belt, he can consider himself a vital part of Luis Enrique’s squad. The former Valencia man played 10 of the first 13 games of the season, and after a run of injuries he is now firmly established once again with 12 appearances in the last 14 matches.
Below we look at some of the statistics that show Mathieu’s importance to the team:
-30 games: In Balaídos he reached a figure that consists of 21 league games, five Spanish Cup games and four in the Champions League.
-25 appearances in the starting 11: He has appeared only five times as a substitute and has played all 90 minutes on 21 occasions.
-2,290 minutes: His minutes on the field have been shared between 1,681 minutes in the league, 320 in the Spanish Cup and 289 in the Champions League.
-3 goals: With his two league goals and his goal against Elche in the Spanish Cup, Mathieu is on the verge of equalling his best ever goalscoring season which was last year when he found the net on four occasions playing for Valencia.
-5 yellow cards: He has been booked five times this season, once in the Spanish Cup and four times in the league. The latter means that if he plays against Almería and is shown a yellow card, he will miss the game at the weekend against Sevilla due to suspension.
Luis Enrique insisted at his press conference that the Almeria game is one to be taken very seriously #FCBlive
“We need to beat Almeria if we want to win the league” said the FC Barcelona manager at today’s conference, citing the change of manager as one of many potential dangers
The LFP has announced a change to the fixtures in the first week of May. The game between Cordoba and FC Barcelona, originally scheduled for Saturday 2 May at 6.00pm CET has been moved to the earlier time, on the same day, of 4.00pm CET.
Luis Enrique does not believe that Wednesday night’s game against Almeria at the Camp Nou is a chance to rest some of his players for theoretically more difficult games in mind. “If we want to win the league, then we have to make sure we win this game” he told his Tuesday press conference. “We’ll be taking this game as seriously as any other, knowing that we have to get things right if we want to be sure of the three points.”
Barça are top of the league right now, and to still be there in nine games’ time, he insists “it’s a matter of getting more points than the team in second place and doing that always starts with the next match, which in this case is the one we have on Wednesday. Anything beyond that is mere speculation. We just have to play a good game tomorrow, making sure that we create plenty of danger and don’t allow them to do the same.”
The following is a selection of other comments made by the Barcelona manager at Tuesday lunchtime:
On Sergi Barjuan becoming manager of Almeria
“He’s a friend and I am often in contact with him. I am very glad that he’s been offered this opportunity and I hope he makes the most of it. But only from Thursday onwards!”
“Managerial changes are a way of stimulating a team and its players. That could be dangerous for us.”
“Sergi only has one training session before the game, and that’s not much. He’ll certainly have things to say to his players, but it’s difficult enough to get changes to take effect after six months, so we can’t expect him to achieve much in just one day.”
On the team’s form
“We’re in a privileged position right now but that doesn’t mean the league will end like this. We’ll still be looking to make improvements. If we can keep this up, then it will be that much harder for the other teams.”
“This is the situation we wanted to be in. We wanted to be in contention for every title. Not just to be in contention but also to go on and win them. And that’s even more difficult.”
“I don’t think you can say that his transfer has been paid for on the strength of scoring two goals. We knew all about him because he’s been in Spanish football for some time and we always considered him a great signing.”
“I judge Jérémy on what he has done all season, and his performances have been better than good. My opinion hasn’t changed because he’s scored a couple of goals, which was one of the least important things that we brought him here to do.”
“The technical staff made some brilliant signings last summer. All the players that joined us have been doing exceptionally well.”