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    Thursday, October 5, 2023

    Lewandowski Doubtful for Spanish League Game after Barcelona ‘Exorcise’ Champions League Failures

    Barcelona may be without Robert Lewandowski on Sunday as it turns its focus back to the Spanish league after putting itself in a good position to advance in the Champions League following two early eliminations.

    Lewandowski received a knock on his ankle in the first half of the team’s 1-0 win at Porto on Wednesday and is doubtful to make the trip for the league match against Granada on Sunday. Barcelona enters the weekend one point behind Spanish league leader Real Madrid, which hosts Osasuna on Saturday.

    The win against Porto gave Barcelona the lead in Group H of the Champions League with six points after two victories, something the Catalan side hadn’t achieved in its first two matches since Lionel Messi’s last season for the club in 2020-21. Barcelona failed to reach the knockout rounds of the competition the last two seasons.

    Barcelona opened with two consecutive losses in 2021-22, and had already lost once at this point last season.

    “If we have been haunted by bad results in recent years, then today we were able to exorcise some of those ghosts,” Barcelona coach Xavi said after Wednesday’s game, his 100th in charge of the club.

    Barcelona didn’t play particularly well against Porto but found a way to come back with the three points and the group lead. Last season, Barcelona had good performances against Inter Milan both away and at home, but failed to win on both occasions and ultimately couldn’t advance.

    “We have matured,” Xavi said. “We were far from our best, but this is Europe, this was Porto, and we left it all on the field.”

    Lewandowski was replaced in the 34th minute and was expected to undergo further tests to know the extent of his injury. Xavi also saw youngster Lamine Yamal substituted with stomach pain late in the second half, and defender Ronald Araujo finished the match bothered by cramps.

    Still unbeaten this season, Barcelona on Sunday faces a Granada team that is second-to-last and whose only win came in the third round at Mallorca. It is coming off a 3-3 draw at last-place Almeria in a match it was winning 3-0 by halftime.

    Real Madrid, whose only loss of the season came at rival Atletico Madrid in the league, hosts Osasuna after winning 3-2 at Napoli on Tuesday to also put itself in good position to advance in the Champions League.

    Atletico, sitting fourth and with a game in hand, hosts fifth-place Real Sociedad trying to extend its four-game winning streak in all competitions. Both teams won their Champions League games midweek — Atletico defeated Feyenoord 3-2 at home on Wednesday and Sociedad won 2-0 at Salzburg on Tuesday.

    Third-place Girona, the biggest surprise of the league so far, visits Cadiz on Saturday to try to rebound from a 3-0 loss to Madrid at home last weekend. It had entered that match coming off six straight victories and in the lead.

    Getafe enters its match at Celta Vigo on Sunday following the announcement that its stadium’s name was being changed from Coliseum Alfonso Perez to just Coliseum after the former player made comments saying that female players shouldn’t earn the same as male players because they don’t generate the same revenues. The 51-year-old Perez was born in Getafe but never played for the club.

    In other league matches this weekend, sixth-place Athletic Bilbao hosts Almeria; Valencia visits Mallorca; Sevilla hosts Rayo Vallecano; and Villarreal welcomes Las Palmas. -AP

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