It was a result that shocked La Liga on Matchday 5 of the competition. Newly promoted Granada filled their Nuevo Los Cármenes stadium to capacity for the home fixture against Barcelona, fans expectantly filling the stands to see their local side take on the reigning champions.
By the final whistle, it was Granada who took all three points with a 2-0 victory, frustrating Barcelona from start to finish throughout the encounter. While the national press pointed at a below-par performance as the reason behind Barça suffering such a stunning La Liga defeat, that didn’t really tell the whole story. Granada had more than played their part, and this is why they thoroughly deserved their win.
Intensity & Energy
Right from kick-off, one side demonstrated their desire to take the game by the scruff of the neck. That side was Granada, who stormed into the lead after just two minutes. Granada forward Antonio Puertas won an aerial challenge against Clément Lenglet, then prodded the ball forward. Roberto Soldado capitalised on poor control by Júnior Firpo and slipped the ball into the path of Puertas on the overlap, whose cross found the head of Ramón Azeez to score.
Granada players didn’t shirk out of any challenges, which were firm but fair for the most part, despite many protests from the Barcelona players. They also demonstrated tireless effort in all positions, not one player willing to shirk their individual or collective responsibilities, attacking and defending as a tightly cohesive unit. Although Spanish La Liga betting still has Barcelona as favourites for the title, they might learn a thing or two from Granada’s intensity.
Leading managers often suggest there’s much more to defending than just the players in the backline. Indeed, successful defending often starts from the attacking line, greatly involves the midfield and then, the defensive line of players. During the encounter, Granada were content to let Barcelona dominate over 73% of possession, often keeping a tight backline of four with a compact midfield trio just ahead in a low block shape.
Whenever necessary, wide players Darwin Machís and Antonio Puertas dropped back to form a midfield five. This reduced space to a minimum in the middle of the park while also cutting out any passing channels out wide, leaving Barcelona with only the shortest passing options which rarely created any danger or shooting opportunities. Even as Barcelona introduced Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati and Arturo Vidal in the second half, Granada remained composed and compact.
At the start of the season, few pundits or experts gave Granada much hope in La Liga, highlighting the newly promoted side as one of the favourites for relegation. Nevertheless, the secret to the positive start to the 2019-20 season for Granada, actually began last season in the second tier. Currently the youngest manager in La Liga, 38-year-old Diego Martínez has firmly embedded a philosophy that while individual talent is allowed to shine, the needs of the team must always be the priority.
Most impressive of all, whenever any players are interviewed before or after games, to the very last man, they all echo the words of their manager. This is a Granada team which focuses on each game as it comes and ignores the league table. This is a team that shows great solidarity across all areas of the pitch, each player looking to help their teammates. While on paper Granada may not boast the strongest group of individuals, as a unit, they’re quickly proving a hugely difficult opponent for even the strongest opponents.