Barcelona vs Almeria
Estadio Olimpico sets the stage for a must-win La Liga encounter between reigning champions Barcelona and rock-bottom Almeria.
Barcelona players have rallied behind manager Xavi Hernandez after an uneventful 1-1 draw against Valencia at the weekend intensified pressure on the Spaniard. Back at Estadio Olimpico for the first time since a 4-2 rout at the hands of unexpected La Liga leaders Girona, the ‘Bluagrana’ aim to end a three-game winless run in all competitions and reignite their faltering title defense. Already nine points off the title pace, Xavi’s side can’t afford a slip-up against basement boys Almeria, a side they lost to 1-0 on the road in their last top-flight H2H in February. However, they’ve been nothing short of convincing in this fixture over the years, winning all seven La Liga H2Hs in the 21st century via an aggregate score of 21-2, including the last four by multi-goal margins.
On the other hand, out-of-sorts Almeria stood their ground at the weekend as they held Mallorca to a scoreless draw at home, a point that did them little favor, leaving them as the only La Liga side yet to get into the win column this season (D5, L12). Nailed to the bottom of the standings, the visitors face an uphill task to secure top-flight survival, with nine points separating them from safety. Manager Gaizka Garitano oversaw only Almeria’s second league clean sheet of the season at the weekend, though that’s a feat they’ve yet to achieve on the road, contributing to the division’s worst traveling record at the start of this round (D1, L7). Almeria’s porous defense has been leaking goals at an alarming rate, conceding 2.65 per La Liga travel this term.