The fifth round of La Liga sees Catalan rivals Girona and Barcelona battle it out at Camp Nou, with both teams having got off to great starts in the league so far.
While Girona have won their last two games, having previously drawn to Valladolid and lost at the hands of Real Madrid, Barcelona remain unbeaten, and will surely be looking to reclaim top spot in La Liga after Los Blancos' win on Saturday.
The fact that Girona currently sit sixth in the table is testament to their capability, however, their Catalan rivals will surely be the largest challenge yet faced. If Girona are able to secure a victory it will prove a monumental boost in the coming games.
Barcelona come into the game off the back of a decisive 4-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League. This, in addition to their solid league record, means that they arrive on Sunday in fine spirit and great form.
Whilst not the most iconic Catalonian derby, with this being only the third time these two teams have faced off in La Liga, tension will nonetheless be in the air on Sunday as both teams look to continue their good form.
Yet, this clash may prove to be classic, in that 5,000 Girona fans have been offered free tickets for the Camp Nou fixture, in light of the fact that their home clash in 2019 is set to be played across the Atlantic in Miami, an unprecedented event in European football.
Aficiones Unidas, an association of fan clubs, said to be happy w/compensation package for Girona fans (1,500 flights to Miami, 5,000 free tickets for Camp Nou game this month, money back on season tickets etc).— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) September 11, 2018
With tensions between Barcelona and the Spanish FA still high, doubts over whether this American tie will take place have already arisen. If it is successful however, then La Liga may gain a huge following in the high Spanish-speaking Florida.
Lionel Messi vs Pedro Porro
Girona frontman Cristhian Stuani has scored three in his last two games, making him a threat on the front foot.
However, Girona have been somewhat sloppy with the aggressiveness of their defending. In their last game, Celta Vigo equalised through a free kick from just outside their box, whereas two penalties were conceded against Real Madrid.
Barcelona will also be sure to capitalise on Girona’s seeming uncertainty in dealing with balls being crossed from out wide. With wingers such as Messi and Dembele, the current league leaders will prove difficult opponents to defend against.
At Camp Nou, Brazilian midfielder Arthur has missed group training ahead of the game on Sunday, but may still be up for contention.
Other than this, there are no real injury concerns for Barcelona, but playing in both La Liga and the Champions League on a regular basis is draining, with seven matches in three weeks suggesting that Valverde may make some changes ahead of Sunday evening.
Colombian full back Johan Mojica looks set to miss the clash for Girona, still suffering from an injury picked up in training at the start of August.
Potential Barcelona Lineup: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Arthur Melo, Busquets, Coutinho, Messi, Suarez, Dembele.
Potential Girona Lineup: Bono, Alcala, Bernardo, Juanpe, Porro, Granell, Luiz, Aday, Portu, Garcia, Stuani.
Barcelona look set to add to their collection of wins so far this season and Girona may struggle to contain the attacking threat of such a giant squad.
The only silver lining for Girona, however, lies in the prospect of some of Barcelona’s big names being rested after their recent Champions League action.
If the defence can resist long enough for the attacking threat of Garcia, Stuani and Portu to be realised then they may stand a chance. Ultimately though, this chance will be fairly slim.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Girona