The pendulum may have swung firmly in Lionel Messi’s way going into the Ballon D’Or awards gala. Yet again, the contest turned into a two-horse race with the Argentinean and Portuguese maverick, Cristiano Ronaldo going toe to toe.
For Granada, it is an important contest. The side crashed to 0-4 loss midweek against Valencia, following another defeat at the hands of Sevilla. Yet again, Granada finds itself in precarious position, embroiled in a relegation battle. They do have the squad to take them over the line, following last year’s narrow escape.
Barcelona meanwhile have different ambitions and are understandably overwhelming favourites. Fresh from winning the Catalunian derby last week, the European Champions are back in their element. Despite going behind against Espanyol, the Blagurana’s class was too much for their cross-town rivals to deal with.
With Arda Turan eligible to play, there is more strength in depth for the home side. The Turk’s direct runs give the side a different dimension in attack.
There are issues to deal with elsewhere though. Luis Suarez faces another spell on the sidelines after allegedly being involved in a tunnel brawl in the Copa de Rey match against Espanyol. There were otgher clashes too in the game.
With Real Madrid losing pace in the title race, Atletico Madrid have managed to take a slender lead. Barcelona have a game in hand. Over the years, the Spanish La Liga has seen a title race go to the last day and the signs are there for an encore.
With Atletcio emerging as a superpower since Diego Simeone’s arrival at the club, the league title has turned into a three-way street. In this contest, Barcelona will predictably dominate possession and their marauding front-three will be at the goalmouth, sniffing chances. For Granada, it is the midfield battle that will decide whether they can get anything out of this contest.
On the counter too, they have strikers who can get behind the opposition backline and make them pay in Youssef El-Arbi and Issac Success. With a team that creates chances by the dozen, the goalkeeper needs to be on top of his game. Ivan Kelava has his task cut out.
José Ramón Sandoval’s side doesn’t give up easy but they will be chasing shadows and Messi’s runs for the better part of the evening. They almost sprang a surprise three years ago, when the teams played out a thrilling 5-3 goal-glut, with Barca taking the honours. Granada’s chances look bleak here.