While only goal difference separates Almería from the drop zone, they were still just three points adrift of Sevilla in 12th ahead of this round, highlighting the current tight nature of the La Liga (LL) relegation scrap. As a result, halting a run of three consecutive losses could be crucial here, with manager Rubi asking fans “for forgiveness” after their 6-2 defeat to Girona last time out.
Despite those troubles, Almería have enjoyed playing on their own turf this season, with their 19 points on home soil a total bettered by just six sides in the division ahead of the weekend. However their last four LL games at home have yielded just a single win (D1, L2), and that poor run could continue against Barcelona, as Almería have faced them more times without winning in LL (D2, L11) than any other opponent. That includes Almería’s joint-heaviest defeat ever, an 8-0 loss at this venue back in November 2010.
The visitors were dumped out of Europe on Thursday after a 2-1 loss at Manchester United, and amidst the disappointment, coach Xavi Hernández touched on the importance of the “two titles left” stating that “we want to win them.” While their eight-point lead at the LL summit ahead of this round gives Barcelona a huge chance of reclaiming the league title, the Blaugrana will likely have one eye on next week’s Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid.
Key battle: El Bilal Touré has seen his last three LL home goals help Almería pick up seven points, but here he will be up against Barça’s Marc-André ter Stegen, who has 17 clean sheets, the most by any goalkeeper after the first 22 games of a LL season.
Hot stat: Rubi has lost all of his seven managerial matches against Barcelona, six by at least a 2+ goal margin.