​La Liga leaders Barcelona face close rivals Girona in a tricky fixture that could be a stumbling block in their undefeated start to the season on Saturday.


With five wins from five in a brilliant start to the campaign, while eternal rivals Real Madrid are stuttering in the league after failing to win a home game so far, Barca could be looking ahead to a return to pinnacle of domestic Spanish football.

Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga

Classic Encounter


Having spent the majority of their career in the Segunda Division, Girona are playing for the first time in La Liga after finally earning promotion in in the 2016/17 season. They have spent 21 seasons in the second-tier, and will face a monumental task to get a result against the Blaugrana.

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Barcelona on the other hand have won La Liga 24 times, and will feel fairly confident they can continue their rich vein of form under new boss Ernesto Valverde and stay top of the pile in the Spanish league.


Key Battles


Christian Stuani vs Gerard Pique


After scoring two goals against in a shocking opening La Liga debut against Atletico Madrid, the Uruguyan striker and former Middlesbrough star must be on a high after showing his worth against the Spanish league powerhouse.

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His threat in front of goal will be matched by the experience and expertise of Gerard Pique, who will have to pull out all the stops to ensure another surprising result is not on the cards, after Girona showed at home they can be a match for anyone.


Marc Muniesa vs Lionel Messi


Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has shunned the doubters after a 'paltry' 53 goals last season only helped Barca to a Copa del Rey trophy as they were out-staged by Real Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel M

Starting this campaign with 9 goals in 5 league appearances, the talisman of Barcelona has showed his importance and influence on the side. 


He will be watched closely by Marc Muniesa, a former product of La Masia and on loan Stoke City defender, who will want to prove his former employees wrong with a spirited display.


Team News


The hosts will be without defender Carles Planas, who has missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, midfielder David Timor is also a doubt after continuing a spell on the sidelined with a muscle injury

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For the visitors, Barcelona are without new signing and exciting French winger Ousmane Dembele, who will sadly miss at least three months with a hamstring injury picked up in last weekends 2-1 victory over Getafe.


Midfielder Rafinha, brother of Bayern Munich star Thiago, is also likely to miss the tie with a suspected meniscus knock.


Predicted Lineups


Girona: (3-5-2) Iraizoz; Lopez, Alcala, Muniesa, Mojica, Becerra; Pons, Granell; Kayode, Stuani


Barcelona: (4-3-3) Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic; Messi, Deulofeu, Suarez


Prediction


Barcelona to win at a canter with another dominant and humiliating display of the opposition, after battering Eibar 6-1 midweek, with Messi bagging four in a one-sided victory.

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However, it may prove tricky if Girona can play with the same resilience that they did against Atletico Madrid in the opening game of the season.


Nevertheless, with Barca able to rest a number of key players including Luis Suarez in the tie with Eibar, the away side should convincingly pick up another three points, to keep up the pressure on Los Blancos, who were defeated in a shocking stoppage time goal at home to Real Betis on Wednesday.


Girona 1-4 Barcelona