The best thing was the result for Barcelona. The Catalans were expected to roll over last-place Granada at Camp Nou on Saturday, but beat the Andalusians by a single goal scored by Rafinha. They will need serious improvement against Manchester City.
Rafinha rescues Barca in narrow win over Granada
Without injured pair Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, Luis Enrique rested Sergio Busquets but still fielded a strong side that looked likely to blow away a team that had previously lost 7-1 away to Atletico Madrid and 5-1 in Las Palmas this season.
However, it took time. Luis Suarez, who presented the Golden Shoe he collected last week to the fans before the match, missed a good chance in the first half, while Denis Suarez struggled in midfield.
Ultimately, Rafinha converted three minutes into the second half with an acrobatic effort and again it seemed Barca would go on to win comfortably. But again it toiled and never really got out of second gear, holding on for a deserved, yet hardly convincing 1-0 win.
The 3-2 victory over Valencia at Mestalla last weekend also saw Barca below its best in a match the Blaugrana were ultimately fortunate to win. And even though the 4-0 success at home to City in the Champions League was fairly resounding in terms of the scoreline, it was only secured after Claudio Bravo’s red card and in the first half, Guardiola’s side caused problems for Luis Enrique’s men.
That match was the fourth in City’s streak of six games without a victory, but Pep’s side returned to winning ways by thrashing West Brom 4-0 away from home on Saturday. Sergio Aguero was back on form with two goals for the Premier League leader.
So Tuesday’s second meeting between the two teams may be a different prospect. City is out of its rut, Barca below its best, and this time the match will be played in Manchester.
Busquets will be back and in truth, Barca is rarely the same side without the midfielder. And in fairness, the Catalans did what they needed to do against Granada. Nothing more, nothing less.
“It wasn’t our best day,” Luis Enrique admitted afterwards. “But I’m happy with the three points.”
That was an honest appraisal and the Asturian coach will not be too concerned at this stage. Against City on Tuesday, however, and also at Sevilla next weekend, Barca will need to do much better.