El Sardinero, Santander
Racing Need A Clean Sheet
Racing Santander secured their first win of the season away to Malaga on Saturday and seem to have banished the memories of Roberto Soldado's demolition job at El Sardinero on the opening day of the season.
Sandwiched between that 4-1 defeat to Getafe and Saturday's win, Juan Mandia's side drew 1-1 away to Atletico Madrid and thus have conceded in each of their three games this season.
If they are to have any chance of beating the Blaugrana they will need to ensure that their defence are at their very best, because the visitors are not likely to concede more than one goal after shipping two against Atletico at the weekend.
Racing are capable of giving the visitors a tough game as they proved last season, managing a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou and losing 2-1 at home in February when Lionel Messi came off the bench, with the visitors a goal behind, to grab a brace for Barca .
Must-Win Games Already For Barca
While winning is a habit for Barcelona it is quickly becoming a necessity as rivals Real Madrid have started the season in fine style. Neither of the big two will want to be the first to slip up in the title race as the first dropped points will surely give the other side the psychological edge ahead of their showdown in November.
Pep Guardiola was quoted as saying that Barca need to improve after the 5-2 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday, suggesting that despite the greatness achieved by the team, complacency is not something he will tolerate, even in a comprehensive victory.
While Gerard Pique misses out tomorrow, Gabriel Milito and Bojan Krkic are the only other absentees so Guardiola has no shortage of quality players vying for starting positions and those who are given a starting place know they must continue to produce the goods.
Barca's coach will pick those in form and has shown that he clearly isn't a man who will let sentimentality influence his team selection, as club captain Carles Puyol is well aware, with Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Pique already looking like Pep's preferred pairing at the centre of the defence.
Sept 19 Malaga 1-2 Racing (La Liga)
Sept 12 Atletico Madrid 1-1 Racing (La Liga)
Aug 30 Racing 1-4 Getafe (La Liga)
Aug 22 Barakaldo 0-2 Racing (Friendly)
Aug 18 Racing 1-0 Sporting Gijon (Friendly)
Sept 19 Barcelona 5-2 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
Sept 16 Inter 0-0 Barcelona (UEFA Champions League)
Sept 12 Getafe 0-2 Barcelona (La Liga)
Aug 31 Barcelona 3-0 Sporting Gijon (La Liga)
Aug 28 Barcelona 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (UEFA Super Cup)
Henrique is on loan from Camp Nou and is set to miss out. Otherwise Juan Mandia is unlikely to make any changes from the side that beat Malaga at the weekend but Luis Garcia may push for a starting place against his former employers.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Tono – Sepsi, Morris, Moraton, Penillos – Arana, Diop, Lacen, Oscar Serrano – Geijo, Munitis
Facing five games in 14 days after the 0-0 draw with Inter, Pep Guardiola may look to freshen things up here and at Malaga. He may wait until the weekend to start Andres Iniesta but Eric Abidal and Yaya Toure could feature in place of Maxwell and Sergi Busquets. Pique is set to miss out after picking up a knock against Atletico Madrid so Puyol should start.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Valdes – Alves, Chygrynskiy, Puyol, Abidal – Toure, Xavi, Keita, – Messi, Ibrahimovic, Henry
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manuel Arana scored Racing's opener in the win over Malaga and the home side will look to him to once again provide a strong attacking threat.
On a tight pitch such as that at El Sardinero, Xavi could be the one to provide a moment of magic to unlock the Racing rearguard. His ability to retain possession and find a telling pass will be vital.
Games between Racing and Barcelona have been quite close in recent years but Barca are on a high at the moment and their sheer attacking quality should ensure they win this with a relative degree of comfort.
Racing Santander 1-3 Barcelona
Paul Madden, Goal.com