Match Preview: FC Barcelona v. Getafe

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The Fixture

Barcelona looks to continue their perfect start to the season with a fourth straight victory in La Liga. The Blaugrana have not conceded a goal in 270 minutes of league play so far and their 3-0 win against Juventus in the Champions League during the week will have Ernesto Valverde’s men feeling invincible. However, after a long string of games without respite for most of his key players, Valverde might deploy a heavily rotated side for the first time this season against Getafe, which adds a twinge of unpredictability to an otherwise conquerable fixture.

The Opposition

Getafe have had a decent start to life in La Liga after a one-season hiatus in the Segunda. They earned a point away at Athletic Club despite playing the final 25 minutes with 10 men, lost 1-0 at home to Sevilla despite being the better side and won 2-1 away at Leganes on Match Day 3.

Getafe have invested a modest sum of €12.5 million to make some incremental improvements to the squad now that they are back in La Liga. Forward Amath Ndiaye was the biggest signing of the summer, coming over from Atletico Madrid for €3 million, and creative midfielder Faycal Fajr joined on a free transfer from Deportivo La Coruna. I think Getafe has also done a shrewd bit of business with the loan deal for Uruguayan midfielder Mauro Arambarri.

The specifics of his transfer reeks of one of those shady South American rights deals. French club Bordeaux bought Arambarri from Uruguayan club Defensor in 2015-16, and after he only made two league starts in two seasons, they sold him to Uruguayan club Boston River on August 8. On August 9, Boston River loaned him to Getafe with an option to buy. Regardless of the circumstances of his arrival, Arambarri has already made a difference for his new club, scoring an absolute screamer in Getafe’s 2-1 win against Leganes.

Getafe boss Jose Bordalás has a recent reputation of getting teams out of the Segunda, first doing so with Alaves in 15-16 before he repeated the feat with Getafe last season. Unlike Alaves, who let him go in order to hire Mauricio Pellegrino, Getafe included a clause in his contract that renewed him for an extra season if he got Getafe back to the top flight, so he is coaching La Liga for the first time in his career.

Bordalás has Getafe lining up in a 4-4-2, and as you would expect from a side looking to set up a nest in La Liga rather than flirting with relegation again, they play a defensive brand of football. They’ve conceded fewer goals (two) on the season than both of their powerhouse Madrid neighbors, but they’ve also scored the third fewest goals in the league (two). Their statistical and tactical profile closely resembles that of Bordalás’ former club Alaves, a team Barcelona was able to beat 2-0 away from home on Match Day 2.

The Selection

After a pair of important home fixtures and an active international break for most of the team, this game, as well as the home matchup with Eibar on Tuesday, seems like a perfect opportunity for Ernesto Valverde to rotate his squad and rest his key players. Because this is an away fixture against a team that tends to park the bus against big clubs, I think having Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembélé in the lineup is the best way for Valverde to go rather than starting without any of his key forwards and having to sub them on in a dire circumstance. I say let Messi and Dembélé continue to build chemistry and then give the former the day off against Eibar at the Nou Camp.

That leaves Luis Suarez on the bench just in case of emergency, and opens up the left forward spot for Gerard Deulofeu, who has been playing well this season and only lost his spot against Juve because of Dembélé’s stature and not by any fault of his own. It does pain me to leave Denis Suarez out of the starting XI again, but because he wasn’t in the team against Espanyol and didn’t see the field against Juventus, I think Andre Gomes, Sergi Roberto and Paulinho are a bit higher in Valverde’s pecking order for now. Given that I’ve left Andres Iniesta out of the squad entirely, I think Denis can be Valverde’s creative midfield sub whether he needs it or not so that he can finally get some game time.

Meanwhile, I could see Valverde keeping one player from his best midfield three in the XI just to preserve some continuity, but I also think this would be a great test for the likes of Paulinho and Gomes to prove the quality to the manager after showing some flashes in their brief appearances off the bench in the past week. Roberto isn’t out to prove anything, because it seems he has already won Valverde’s trust, which is fantastic news. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in any of the three midfield positions, which includes replacing Sergio Busquets while Paulinho plays in a more forward role as he does for Brazil.

Lucas Digne should be itching for a start after a couple of games away from the squad entirely as Valverde went with attack-heavy reserves in his two most recent games. After the two magnificent, and draining, performances Jordi Alba put in against Espanyol and Juventus, I’m sure he won’t mind taking a back seat in this one so Digne can get a run in. It will be interested to see whether Valverde asks Digne to replicate Alba’s style or if he prefers Digne to be a bit more conservative while Nelson Semedo is given more creative license on the right flank. Gerard Pique also deserves a rest, and I’m sure Javier Mascherano is ready to get back into the action as well.

The Prediction

3-0, Barcelona.

Mark Travis is a 23-year old sportswriter who recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Sports Media. He started his own website, But The Game Is On, in 2008 as an outlet for his praise of Michael Crabtree and has since been credentialed by major organizations like the NBA, NFL, MLB, Nike and Team USA Basketball. He also covered the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.