Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Elche and Barcelona, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The Catalan giants are currently fourth in the table, one point behind third-placed Real Betis with a game in hand, while Elche occupy 13th, eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Elche have won four times in the league since January 10, which has allowed them to move away from the relegation zone, with the club currently sitting 13th in the table on 29 points.
Los Franjiverdes are eight points clear of the relegation zone and actually only four points behind ninth-placed Valencia, so they should be looking up the table rather than down at this stage, although Francisco‘s side will enter this weekend’s contest off the back of a disappointing result.
Indeed, the Green-Striped ones suffered a 3-0 defeat at Levante on February 25, which proved to be their second straight loss on their travels, but they have impressively won four of their last five La Liga matches in front of their own supporters, including each of their last three.
Elche have not finished higher than 13th in La Liga since claiming 11th in 1976-77, so it could be a famous campaign for the club if they are able to push up the table in the coming weeks.
Los Ilicitanos have lost each of their last five La Liga matches against Barcelona, though, including a 2-0 defeat in the corresponding match last term, while the Catalan giants recorded a 3-2 victory in the reverse clash earlier this season at Camp Nou.
Barcelona, meanwhile, continued their impressive run of form in La Liga with a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao last weekend, which made it four wins in their last five matches in Spain’s top flight.
The Catalan giants have not actually lost in the league since the start of December, and they currently sit fourth in the table, level on points with fifth-placed Atletico Madrid but just one behind third-placed Real Betis, who have played a game more, so the race for third and fourth in La Liga is fascinating.
Barcelona are not in a title race this season, sitting 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, but they would be just six points behind second-placed Sevilla if they win their match in hand, so it is not impossible to imagine them claiming the runners-up spot, which would be a success considering their struggles this term.
Xavi‘s side are also fighting for success in Europe, preparing to take on Galatasaray in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League affair on March 10, having impressively overcome Napoli in the previous round.
The Catalan side will play five times in March, including a trip to Real Madrid on March 20, and it will be fascinating to see what they can achieve this season, particularly with a number of players now finding their best form, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has netted five times in six appearances since his arrival during the January transfer window.
Elche La Liga form:
Elche form (all competitions):
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Gumbau’s position in the middle of midfield could be taken by Raul Guti, while there could also be a change out wide, with Fidel potentially coming in for Guido Carrillo, with Pere Milla moving further forward.
Head coach Francisco is likely to resist the temptation to make wholesale changes from the side that started against Levante, with the same back four expected to remain in place for the match.
Ousmane Dembele, Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong all scored off the bench against Athletic last time out, but the trio are likely to be among the substitutes once again, with Aubameyang set to be joined by Adama Traore and Ferran Torres in the final third of the field.
Elche possible starting lineup:
Badia; Barragan, Roco, Bigas, Mojica; Morente, Mascarell, Guti, Fidel; Milla, Boye
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Pique, Alba; F de Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Traore, Aubameyang, Torres
We say: Elche 1-2 Barcelona
Elche’s recent home form has been excellent and must be taken into consideration when predicting this match, but we are finding it difficult to back against Barcelona, who are on an impressive run of form. It could be a tight scoreline, but the visitors should shade this contest on Sunday afternoon.