Football

Magician Messi can be stopped

Granada man Babin plans solid defence against Barca

GRANADA v BARCELONA

(Tonight, 10.55pm, Singtel TV Ch 115 & StarHub TV Ch 209)

Granada defender Jean-Sylvain Babin believes Malaga have revealed the formula for beating Barcelona and will go into tonight’s match at the Estadio Los Carmenes full of optimism. Barcelona won plaudits for their 2-1 away win over Manchester City in the Champions League, but their last league outing was a shock 1-0 home defeat by Malagawhich has left them four points adrift of Real Madrid at the top of the table.

Given their midweek display, few would bet against Barca getting their title push back on track against lowly Granada but Babin has other ideas.

FORMULA

Babin said: “There is a formula to stop Lionel Messi.

“You have to defend very well, staying close between the lines, and then quickly counter-attacking and keeping the ball.”

While Barca fret over allowing a gap to open at the top of the table, Granada’s situation is far more desperate as they sit in 19th place, four points adrift of Elche in 17th place. Babin said: “We need three points and cannot fail. The fans and the club did not deserve this situation and we are fighting to change it.”

Granada striker Youssef El-Arabi has been banned for four games following an altercation during Monday’s game against Levante.

El-Arbai was sent off in the 79th minute of Levante’s 2-1 home victory, alongwiththehomeside’s IvanRamis, and the Spanish Football Federation’s competition committee has punished them for “violent conduct in an off-the-ball incident”.

El-Arabi will sit out today’s match, as well as the Primera Division encounters against Malaga, Rayo Vallecano and Eibar.

Granada will also be without Adrian Colunga, who is on loan from Brighton, for the games against Barcelona and Malaga.

The Spanish striker, who was sent off after kicking a Levante player in the same game, has been handed a two-match suspension.

The club’s plight has not dissuaded midfielder Fran Rico from signing a new five-year contract with Granada, while Barca are celebrating a new deal for Sergio Busquets. He has reached an agreement to stay at the Nou Camp until June 2019.

It will see Busquets become one of the highest-paid players in the squad and will allow the club to increase the player’s buy-out clause to €150 million.

A youth product of Barca, the holding midfielder has made made 313 appearances for the Blaugrana since breaking into the first team in 2008.

The 26-year-old has helped the club win 16 trophies, including two Champions League titles.

Busquets was a member of Spain’s World Cup-winning side in 2010 and also lifted the European title two years later. He has started in 22 league games for Barca this season.

There is fresh speculation, however, over the future of veteran playmaker Xavi, with New York City FC director of football operations Claudio Reyna revealing his club are still interested in signing the 35-year-old and reuniting him with David Villa.

He said: “It is true that we have tried to sign him.

“Next year we need new franchise players. The door remains open.”


FIXTURES

Today:

  • Granada v Barcelona (10.55pm)

Tomorrow:

  • Rayo Vallecano v Levante (12.55am)
  • Almeria v Deportivo Coruna (2.55am)
  • Malaga v Getafe (4.55am)
  • Valencia v Real Sociedad (6.55pm)
  • Eibar v Athletic Bilbao (11.55pm)

Monday:

  • Sevilla v Atletico Madrid (1.55am)
  • Real Madrid v Villarreal (3.55am)

Tuesday:

  •  Celta Vigo v Elche (3.40am)


All matches will be telecast LIVE on Singtel TV Ch 114/115 & StarHub TV 
Ch 208/209.


# Denotes - No LIVE telecast