A Barcelona side reeling from crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage for the second consecutive season will return to La Liga action this weekend, taking on Almeria at the Spotify Camp Nou.
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On the continental front, it hasn’t been the season Xavi would’ve hoped or wished for, having come into replace departing manager Ronald Koeman after last season’s torrid Champions League group stage.
Fast forward 12 months and the same issue that plagued the former Netherlands international’s time as Barcelona manager has haunted incumbent boss Xavi, who will now once again have to guide the club through a Europa League campaign.
Prior to the turn of the millennium, Barcelona had played in Europe’s secondary competition just once, now after the latest group stage catastrophe, they face back-to-back Europa League appearances for the first time since 1988.
However, unlike last season, Barcelona still have plenty to play for and despite their poor form in Europe, just one point separates Xavi’s side from leaders Real Madrid.
Having watched on as Real Madrid lifted back-to-back La Liga titles, the onus was one Barcelona to deny their El Classico rivals a three-peat this time around, with La Blaugrana having enjoyed a strong start to the season.
Sitting in second, Xavi’s men have taken an impressive 31 points from their opening 12 matches, with last month’s defeat to Real Madrid their only loss in that time.
Hoping to extend that record this weekend, Almeria will be the visitors to the Camp Nou and a rampant Barcelona have their eyes set on another maximum in the league.
No side in the division have scored more goals than Barcelona so far this season, with the addition of star man Robert Lewandowski boosting the Catalan side’s attacking threat.
A sensational return of 13 goals from 12 La Liga appearances has represented the perfect start to life in Barcelona for the Polish international and he was on form once again in their last league outing.
Popping up in the 93rd minute to give Barcelona all three points away to Barcelona, Lewandowski’s latest La Liga strike took La Blaugrana to within one point of Real Madrid, who drew earlier in the day.
Expect Lewandowski to start on Saturday against an Almeria side who have fared well on their return to La Liga, picking up 13 points from their first 12 outings.
Coming into the clash on the back of a confidence boosting triumph over Celta Vigo, while Almeria are unlikely to get a result at Camp Nou, the Rojiblancos will pose their own threat to title contenders Barcelona.
Only narrowly beaten by Real Madrid on the opening weekend of La Liga, expect a tight affair on Saturday evening, with Barcelona finding a way to come out on top against Almeria.