The first game of 2021 is a trip to Aragon (Sunday 3 January at 9.00pm CET) to visit Huesca for only the second time ever in La Liga.
The home club, which plays in a very similar blaugrana strip to Barça’s and includes a number of players who spent part of their youth at La Masia, has only won one game so far this season, and they are currently rock-bottom of the Liga table. However, they have drawn over half of their games, so taking all three points on offer at the Estadio El Alcoraz will be no easy task.
Indeed, despite winning 8-2 at Camp Nou two years ago, Barça’s last visit to Huesca’s ground ended in a 0-0 draw.
Barça can’t afford to draw this one too. After doing just that against Eibar a week ago, they start the weekend ten points adrift of leaders Atlético Madrid, who also have a game in hand. So there is only one option for Ronald Koeman’s side today: win.
Leo Messi, who was carrying a minor injury and sat out the game with Eibar is back to full fitness and returns to the squad, as does Jordi Alba, who was suspended for the last game.
Gerard Piqué, Philippe Coutinho (who underwent surgery on Saturday and has been confirmed as out for about three months), Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati are all out through injury, while Samuel Umtiti is having gastric difficulties and will sit this one out too.
Huesca are fairly untroubled by injuries or suspensions, but a regular starter in midfield, Borja García, tested positive for Covid-19 this week. We wish him a speedy and full recovery.
13/04/19 (LIGA) Huesca 0 FC Barcelona 0
02/09/18 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 8 (Messi 2, OG, Suárez 2, Dembélé, Takitic, Alba) Huesca 2
16/12/14 (COPA) FC Barcelona 8 (Pedro 3, S Roberto, Iniesta, Traoré, Sandro, Adriano) Huesca 1
03/12/14 (COPA) Huesca 0 FC Barcelona 4 (Rakitic, Iniesta, Pedro, Rafinha)
Barça have not lost the first game of a calendar year since going down 1-0 to Real Sociedad in 2015.
Barça have lost their last two games against newly promoted sides (Osasuna and Cádiz) and have never lost three in a row against such teams.
Leo Messi has only played one game against Huesca before, and when he did he scored two goals and assisted two more.
The many familiar faces in the Huesca line-up include Sandro Ramírez, who scored for Malaga in a 2-0 defeat of Barça in 2017.
Huesca’s David Ferreiro has created more chances (36) this season than any Barça player – but only two of those have led to goals.
And Rafa Mir has had more shots (35) than anyone at Barça apart from Leo Messi (who leads with 85, almost twice as many as anyone else!).
What they’re saying
Barça manager Ronald Koeman
“Any game is difficult whatever the league table says. They’ve been unlucky to lose a lot of games and concede very little at home, so it won’t be easy.”
“Messi is fine and trained while the others took a break. He’s keen and ready.”
“Coutinho is a big loss. We’re missing Ansu, Piqué, Sergi Roberto… all regular starters. We are missing players and it’s a problem.”
“Our forwards need to take more of their chances. We need more goals from midfield and set pieces too. We create more chances than anyone else, at least six a game, but we need to score from them … I believe in luck too, and we’ve not been getting it. You look at games like the one with Eibar and wonder how we didn’t win.”
“We have a busy January with a lot of away games. I have to be realistic because if we are 12 points off the top we can’t drop any more points and as long as the top teams are consistent, we can’t catch them. A lot of people lie and say things they don’t really think. I’m not going to say we have a good chance to win the league and we can’t afford to lose any more games if we are going to have any chance at all.”
Former Barça youth player Sergio Gómez
“It’s a very special game for me. I spent eight years in the Barça youth system and I’m looking forward to catching up with players that are now in their first team. I wish them all the best but I hope it’s us who win this game.”