Barcelona host Malaga at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
Barcelona’s first home match of the 2015/16 La Liga campaign sees them take on Malaga, incidentally the only Spanish team they failed to beat during last season’s title winning campaign.
Not only did the Catalans fail to beat Malaga, amazingly the failed to find the net against the Andalusian outfit following a 0-0 away draw a shock 1-0 defeat at the Nou Camp.
Luis Enrique’s side will be hoping that won’t be the case on Saturday, but they’re still not at full strength with injuries and suspensions hitting them hard so early on in the season.
In the centre, the suspension to Gerard Pique means there is a three-way tussle between Marc Bartra, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen for a spot alongside Javier Mascherano.
Former Arsenal star Vermaelen was selected for the opening day 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao, and he put in a very assured performance considering and deserves to keep his spot.
Dani Alves is out injured, but in his absence Sergi Roberto was excellent at San Mames and his speed has previously been vastly underused by Barca. He’s a perfect foil for Lionel Messi.
Jordi Alba, back from injury, is a must at left-back after coming through fine last weekend.
Sergio Busquets was stretchered off last weekend, but initial diagnostics suggest he only picked up an ankle knock and will be fine for the clash with Malaga.
If in any doubt, Mascherano should step up to midfield and Bartra deputise in the central of defence.
Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic are fairly irreplaceable at the moment, through their very own solid form and the fact the club’s mounting injuries means there aren’t many other realistic options.
Lionel Messi’s position on the right is a given, though the Argentine superstar ought to come inside perhaps a little more in order to provide more balance and allow Sergi Roberto to push up.
Moreover, Messi’s understanding with Luis Suarez is getting better all the time and in Neymar’s absence, the duo’s intricate play could be the key to unlocking a very good Malaga defence.
Rafinha had another promising game last weekend, and it’s becoming more apparent that his best position is further forward where he will in future provide excellent cover for Barca’s majestic front three.