Barcelona start 2016 without any time for a hangover. Luis Enrique side face crazy January, with plenty to play for if they want to repeat their treble success again. To begin, there are three derby matches in 11 days. One in the league, two in the Copa del Rey. Also in that period is FIFA’s Ballon d’Or gala and a league fixture with Granada.
The first exam is on Saturday, at Cornella-El Prat, where Barça are looking to defend top spot. Four days later comes the first cup clash between the city rivals. This time in Camp Nou. Without time to breathe, it’s then on to Granada and Zurich, where Lionel Messi is almost guaranteed to be presented with his fifth Ballon d’Or – more than any other player in history. Then, almost immediately, it’s time for the second leg of the Copa del Rey.
This start to the new year gets even more demanding. FC Barcelona also have to play two really tough rivals at Camp Nou in Athletic Club and Atletico Madrid. There’s also a trip to La Rosaleda to face Malaga, who have found their form recently. Three games which could mark Barça’s title hopes. Also, if Barcelona beat Espanyol in the cup, they could also face two more Copa del Rey games in January. And by the quarter-final stage, there are no easy rivals.
In total, they could play nine games. All of them crucial. All coming in just 28 days. Luckily, Luis Enrique will be able to count on Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan. They can’t debut in the league until Granada, but they will be available for the Copa del Rey game at Camp Nou in midweek against Espanyol. The availability of these two players is an added boost for the side ahead of a tricky month.
Here is the Blaugrana’s demanding calendar:
Jan 2: Espanyol, Liga A
Jan 6: Espanyol, Copa H
Jan 9: Granada, Liga H
Jan 11: FIFA gala
Jan 13: Espanyol, Copa A
Jan 17: Athletic, Liga H
Jan 23: Malaga, Liga, A
Jan 30: Atletico Liga H
Possible Copa last eight: Jan 20 and 27