After kicking off the new season with a much-needed win at San Mamés, today’s game against Málaga represents the chance to clinch another good win. Bearing in mind last season’s draw and defeat over 2 matches against today’s opponents, a win here would be very much welcome. Real Madrid have not looked fluid and in sync with Rafael Benítez’s tactics and now is at good a time as any to potentially start building any lead over them.
It will be crucial that Ivan Rakitić, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets win the midfield battle against Malaga. Barça need to avoid what happened last season when Malaga produced a shock 0-1 win at Camp Nou. Malaga might look to again force the Barça midfielders to play the ball out wide and seek to defend against balls/crosses played into the box. If Rakitić and Iniesta are able to play passes through the middle, Barça would be able to play with the fluidity and dynamism that all of us want to see.
Ignacio Camacho is Malaga’s key midfielder and the defensive midfielder’s absence will be a boost for Barça. Sergi Darder has a good range of passing and will look to start counter attacks with passes to the likes of Amrabat and Horta.
Barça center backs vs Charles & Duje Čop
Unless Busquets is unfit to play today, the central defence pairing will be Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian played well against Athletic and the same will be expected of him today against Los Boquerones. Charles is a canny forward with a good goalscoring record in Spanish football. Malaga’s new Croatian signing Duje Čop will look to link up with Charles as well as Amrabat and Horta. At 185cm, I’d expect Čop to be a threat in the air.
Sergi Roberto vs Nordin Amrabat
Sergi Roberto was the surprise of last weekend’s La Liga opener against Athletic, having replaced Dani Alves after the Brazilian suffered an injury. At right back, Roberto did not look out of place nor did it seem like he was playing in a position he has little experience in. He was a constant presence up and down the Barça right flank last weekend. In Nordin Amrabat, Roberto will face a quick winger who likes to cut inward onto his stronger right foot. Amrabat will be a threat on the counter, looking to attack the spaces Roberto vacates when he pushes forward. The Moroccan is a decent finisher and a good dribbler.
Personally, Sergi Roberto would be the player I’d focus on as today he’ll be experiencing what Barça fullbacks should be accustomed to – having to push forward to provide width for majority of the match, and yet being disciplined in dealing with a threat on the counter.