Football is back! Barça is back! After a 98-day hiatus due to Covid-19, FC Barcelona finally resume their Liga campaign on Saturday night at 10.00pm CET with an away fixture at Mallorca.
It’s going to be the first of many very different games to what we are used to. The most evident will be the total absence of supporters in the newly renamed Visit Mallorca Stadium, as well as the strict security protocols before, during and after the game, with the players not even allowed to shake hands at the start.
And as a special rule due to the unusually packed fixture list that lies ahead, teams will be able to make as many as five substitutions from a squad of 23, although only on three separate occasions per team.
Where were we?
After three months without football, fans might need to check how things stood when we left off. Despite losing top spot to Real after losing the Clásico the week before, Barça bounced straight back up with a 1-0 defeat of Real Sociedad while Real Madrid lost at Betis the day after. Neither side has played any competitive football since, and there are still eleven games to play (See the Liga table here).
Mallorca, meanwhile, picked up a decent run of form before the interruption, but it wasn’t quite enough to lift them out of the relegation places (full lowdown on RCD Mallorca here).
It is difficult to find anything positive about the Covid-19 crisis, but it does mean that Luis Suárez, who was originally expected to be out until the end of the season, will now be able to feature in the remaining matches. Ousmane Dembélé, however, is still side-lined with his hamstring injury.
Leo Messi’s recent fitness concerns were only minor, and he will very much be part of Quique Setién’s plans for this game. Clement Lenglet will miss the game through suspension (see the full squad here).
Did you know?
Barcelona have won on 10 of their last 11 visits to Mallorca. Counting games both at home and away, they are on a six-match winning streak involving an average of four goals a game, including a 5-2 win at Camp Nou earlier this season.
Barça have conceded two goals on their last five away trips in La Liga.
Leo Messi has scored in each of his last six games against Mallorca, including two hat-tricks for a total of 11 goals.
Quique Setién’s views
Leo Messi: "He’s fine. He had some minor fitness issues so we exercised caution. It made sense, because if we lost him for two weeks, that’s four games.”
Preparations: “I think any coach would have liked to have another week to get ready because a lot of the training sessions weren’t real sessions. But we’re all affected in the same way.”
Luis Suárez: “I’m sure he could play from the start, but it would be foolish to give him 90 minutes. We need to avoid taking risks.”
Five substitutions: “Sometimes it’ll be bad for us and sometimes it’ll benefit us. It depends on how the game is going.”
Martin Braithwaite: "Some players will get more time than others. It all depends on how they’re performing. The thing is, Suárez has earned his right to play while Martin still has to do that.”
Source: FC Barcelona