La Liga Preview: Barcelona v Granada
By Football News
Barcelona return to La Liga action against Granada looking to avoid a dip in performance that followed the last two international breaks.
The reigning champions are undefeated in the league this season, racking up 37 points from a possible 39 in their 13 fixtures.
But Gerardo Martino's side have put in below-par showings immediately after the two previous rounds of international fixtures this term, requiring a 94th-minute winner from Alexis Sanchez against Sevilla in September before mustering just a 0-0 stalemate at Osasuna last month.
However, that draw at the Estadio El Sadar remains the only occasion on which Barca have dropped points this season, meaning Martino's men - who have won their last 21 home Liga games - are sure to head into the fixture against an inconsistent Granada side with confidence.
Lucas Alcaraz's side occupy eighth in the Liga standings, winning five and losing six of their 13 top-flight fixtures this campaign.
Granada come into the match buoyed by back-to-back league victories, though, with a 1-0 triumph at Levante being followed by a comfortable 3-1 success over Malaga.
They travel to Camp Nou to face a Barca side plagued by injury, with Lionel Messi (hamstring) the most notable absentee.
Messi is expected to be out until the new year, but said on Wednesday that he will not set a definitive timeframe for a return.
"I am feeling better, improving slowly, almost without pain and I am starting to do some work. I am not fixing a date to return, it depends on how everything goes," he said.
Joining the Argentina international on the sidelines will be goalkeeper Victor Valdes (calf), defenders Gerard Pique (groin) Jordi Alba and Daniel Alves (both hamstring) and midfielder Cesc Fabregas (knee).
Martino is also sweating on the fitness of Xavi (hamstring) and Cristian Tello (ankle).
Barca took six points from the two meetings between the sides last season, winning 2-0 at Camp Nou and 2-1 away.