Handicap Betting Tip
Sunday’s late La Liga kick-off sees a Catalan derby at Camp Nou, as the defending champions welcome Girona to their home ground for just the second time in the top flight of Spanish football.
The Blanquivermell hope to do better this season after they were severely outclassed in last season’s matchups with Barça, losing the two meetings by a combined 9-1.
Barcelona has unshockingly taken a full 12 points from their opening four La Liga matches, having scored 14 goals and only conceding three. It should be noted that none of their opponents finished higher than 12th place in last year’s table, with recent promotees Huesca and Valladolid also on the receiving end of the defeats. Barça also made easy work of their Champions League opponents on Tuesday night as they rode a Lionel Messi hat-trick to a 4-0 home victory over Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. Barcelona was undefeated at home in La Liga last season, winning 16 matches and drawing three. Their last 10 home domestic matches have seen seven games over 2.5 goals, with Barça scoring at least two goals in all but one match.
Girona’s start has not been as perfect as their neighbour’s, however a solid 2W 1D 1L record put them sixth in the table early in the season. After an opening scoreless draw at home against Valladolid and a 4-1 home loss to Real Madrid, Girona turned the tables with a 1-0 away victory at Villarreal and a gritty 3-2 home win over Celta Vigo. Girona have gone undefeated in their past four away La Liga fixtures, picking up three wins and a draw against opposition that simply cannot be compared to Sunday’s opponents. One positive is that they have been able to net goals in eight of 10 away fixtures, with an even 5/5 split on the over/under 2.5 total goals over that period.
Last year saw Barcelona win this same fixture 6-1 behind a hat-trick from Luis Suarez and a brace from Messi, while the return was a 3-0 win for Barça at Estadi Montilivi.
Things are business as usual for Ernesto Valverde’s squad, boasting a ferocious attack led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. However, the fact that the combination of La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey see them play seven matches in just three weeks, the manager may decide to start Ousmane Dembele or newcomer Malcom on the left wing. The always-packed midfield will see Croatian star Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the 4-3-3, while Sergio Busquets, Rafinha and Coutinho battle for the two remaining positions. Samuel Umtiti picked up a red card in the Champions League match against PSV, so he will surely start at centre-back as he will be unavailable for their next European fixture.
Unfortunately for Girona skipper Eusebio Sacristan, he does not have the same depth of talent to select from. The squad has yet to see two identical formations in any matches this season, with the manager shifting pieces around the find the right style for his team. Their last match saw them produce three goals in a 3-4-2-1 formation, however it will be up to the boss to decide if he wants to try and fight fire with fire, or simply try to defend against the coming onslaught. Regardless, Girona will look the Uruguayan international Cristhian Stuani for goals, as he has netted three times in their past two matches. 20-year-old Douglas Luiz, a Brazilian loanee from Manchester City, impressed in central midfield against Celta Vigo and will be pushing for another chance to shine this weekend. Defenders Pedro Alcala, Bernardo and Juanpe will look to do better against Barcelona than the four goals they conceded when they faced Madrid less than a month ago.
FootyAcca Team News
Barcelona has a clean bill of health, with no injury concerns or suspensions. Their grueling schedule over the next 21 days and their recent domination of Girona could be the perfect opportunity for Valverde to feature Malcom, Arturo Vidal, Munir El Haddadi and others that are pushed to the sidelines by the wealth of talent at the club.
The only injury for the visitors is the long-term ailment that has kept Colombian winger Johan Mojica out of action since the beginning of the season. Not having made the Champions League or Europa League, Sacristan’s squad should be fully rested for Sunday night’s encounter.
Coming off of a 4-0 thrashing of PSV and having to already be looking ahead for the clash with Tottenham in under two weeks, Valverde will have to start thinking of a strategy to keep his players fresh. These factors can easily lead to a CL hangover for Barcelona, especially against a team that they handled with little trouble last season.
For Girona, this is their biggest matchup of the season aside from the reverse fixture at home, so they will be keen to put their best effort out from the opening kick-off. Girona +3 on the Asian handicap gives more than enough room for Barcelona to win, yet get a cover from the underdogs.
Published on: Sept 22, 2018 at 10:35
See how the match unfolds below with our Match Day Updates showing the starting 11 teams, goals, cards and subs.