By 90Min
October 20, 2017

League leaders Barcelona host bottom of the table Malaga at the Nou Camp on Saturday evening.

The home side will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, with second place Valencia closing the gap to just three points after Atletico held Barca to a 1-1 draw last time out.

Malaga have endured a torrid start to this season's campaign, losing all but one of their opening eight games. They've scored just four goals along the way, with three of those coming in their thrilling 3-3 draw with Bilbao, in which they grabbed their only point of the season. 


Recent History


This fixture proved a difficult one for Barca last season, with Blaugrana failing to beat Boquerones on both meetings. In November, they were held to a goalless draw at home, while later on in the season they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at La Rosaleda. 

In the latter, they missed the chance to move level with Real Madrid at the top of the table, which ultimately cost them in the coming games as Los Blancos stayed top until the end of the season. Those results were largely Carlos Kameni-based though, and...he left in the summer. Along with the rest of Malaga's good players. 

JORGE GUERRERO/GettyImages

Key Battle


Lionel Messi vs Luis Hernandez


The former Leicester City centre back, who left England in January, will have to be on the top of his game to contain Lionel Messi, whose rampant goalscoring habits continue to transcend footballing logic.

LLUIS GENE/GettyImages

The Argentine has scored 50 goals in 48 games in 2017, and recently grabbed his 100th Champions League goal in Barca's midweek victory over Olympiacos.

Considering Malaga's defensive record this season (they've conceded 18 goals), you wouldn't bet against Messi adding to his 11 league goals on Saturday.


Team News


Barca have a reasonably full squad, but Jordi Alba had to sit out their midweek clash with Olympiacos due to a knock to his thigh, and it is unclear whether the Spaniard will be fit for Saturday's game. 

Long-term absentees Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha are still suffering with injuries, while Arda Turan, Thomas Vermaelen and Aleix Vidal all miss the match through injury. Malaga's Spanish central midfielder Recio misses the game through suspension.


Prediction


Barcelona will see this as a must-win, especially with Malaga sitting rock bottom of La Liga. 

After an impeccable start to the season, the league leaders will want to stay one step ahead of Valencia, who managed to close the gap to three points last weekend.

Malaga could cause a huge upset if they defend with God-like resilience, but a trip to the Nou Camp is never an easy experience.

Prediction: Barcelona 4-0 Malaga

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