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AS.com | 16/02/2013
Cushioned by a healthy lead at the top of La Liga, Barcelona travel to Granada in what serves as a prelude to two frenetic weeks for stand-in coach Jordi Roura's men. Indeed, while they would be wise to heed the memory of Real Madrid's woes at Los Cármenes, it is inescapable that the Catalan outfit will have one eye on the fixtures that follow. A Champions League engagement with AC Milan on Wednesday, the visit of Sevilla and a league and cup double-header with Madrid offer ample reason for distraction. With this in mind, Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz will never have a better chance against the league leaders.
Since the arrival of Alcaraz - which coincided with the victory over Real - Granada have found renewed strength, moving clear of the drop zone. Such has been the upturn in their fortunes that they are now six points clear of Celta Vigo, who occupy the first of the relegation places. The new signings made during the January transfer window have also brought fresh impetus to the squad.
Having shuffled his pack last weekend in the rout of Getafe, Roura has enjoyed a week clear of fixtures, offering his squad an opportunity to recharge their batteries. Against Granada, Barça's temporary coach will give playing time to players not involved against 'los azulones' such as Pedro, Cesc Fàbregas and Sergio Busquets, while Jordi Alba, Andrés Iniesta and Carles Puyol are rested with the coming flurry of fixtures in mind. Striker David Villa misses out as he recovers from a stomach operation.
The Barcelona line-up to face Granada is: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Thiago, Cesc; Messi, Pedro and Alexis Sánchez.
Meanwhile, Granada boss Alcaraz is set to keep faith with the men who have piloted the side up the table. Their starting eleven is: Toño; Nyom, Íñigo López, Mainz, Siqueira; Torje, Recio, Mikel Rico, Nolito; Aranda and Ighalo.