By 90Min
March 09, 2018

With just 11 games left to go, Barcelona will be looking to stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to eleven points when they face Malaga at La Rosaleda Stadium on Saturday. 

Ernesto Valverde's side should be brimming with confidence following last week's vital 1-0 win over 2nd-placed Atletico Madrid. 

In their way is a Malaga side rooted to the bottom of the league, without a win since 2017 and without a home win since November. 

Barcelona won the reverse fixture 2-0 at the Camp Nou in October, thanks to goals from Gerard Deulofeu and Andres Iniesta. 


Classic Encounter 

Barcelona haven't always had it their own way against the Andalusians and just last season they sprung a huge surprise when they claimed a 2-0 victory over the Catalan club. 

At the time, Malaga were 15th in the the table, while Barcelona were 2nd and needed the win in order to draw level with their title rivals Real Madrid. 

Things didn't go to plan for Barca, however, as former player Sandro Ramirez gave the home side a shock lead in the 32nd minute when he struck a low shot past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. 

Luis Enrique's side pushed for an equaliser but their efforts were hampered when Neymar received a second yellow in 65th minute for a rash challenge on Diego Llorente. Despite being down to ten men, Barca continued to press for an equaliser until stoppage time, when Malaga broke away and put the game to bed thanks to Jony Rodriguez late strike. 

The defeat was a pivotal moment in Barca's season as it left them three points - and having played one game more - behind league leaders Real Madrid, who went on to secure the title in May. 


Recent Form

Recorded last six home & away games: 

Malaga Home Record: LLLDLW 


It doesn't make great reading for Malaga fans who last witnessed a home in November when the Andalusians ran out 3-2 winners over Deportivo. Over the course of the season, Malaga have won just two out of a possible 13 home games - in which they have scored 10 goals and conceded 19. 

Barcelona Away Record: DDWDWW


Barcelona have had a recent mini-struggle away from home. In their last away fixture, Valverde's side drew 1-1 to 18th placed Las Palmas. However, over the course of the season thus far, Barcelona have the best away record in the league having won 10 out of a possible 14 games. 


Team News


Andres Iniesta could be fit again having previously suffered a hamstring injury. However, he is unlikely to be risked ahead of Barca's Champions League clash to Chelsea on Wednesday. Instead, Philippe Coutinho is likely to start in midfield. 

Denis Suarez will miss the game having suffered an adductor muscle strain to his left leg in Barca's midweek Catalan Supercopa victory. 


Meanwhile, Malaga will be without Keko, Juankar and Recio. 


Key Battles


Despite their awful home record, Malaga don't tend to get thrashed at La Rosaleda Stadium too often, having conceded 19 goals in 13 games. Nevertheless, on Saturday, they face La Liga's away top scorers - Barcelona have notched 32 goals in the 14 games they've played away from the Camp Nou. 

Saturday's encounter is more than likely going to be attack versus defence. In defence, Malaga's Ignasi Miquel and Luiz Rodriguez will need to quell the attacking trio of Coutinho, Suarez and Messi. 

At the other end, Malaga could trouble Barcelona down either wings through Gonzalo Castro and Diego Rolan, who could also play further forward. The two wingers are the club's joint-top scorers with three goals each. 


Prediction


Barcelona's previous 1-1 draw away to Las Palmas will offer Malaga a slither of hope, and the visitors may also have one eye towards Wednesday's vital Champions League clash to Chelsea. 

Nevertheless, on paper, Barcelona - the best away side in the league, should beat Malaga - the worst home side in the league. Barca possess too much quality and they should leave La Rosaleda Stadium having secured a comfortable three points. 

Prediction: Malaga 0-3 Barcelona 

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