First place Barcelona set to take on La Liga’s bottom dwellers in Elche
Coming off the international break, Barcelona are set to take on Elche in a battle between the first and last place teams in La Liga.
The Catalan side are coming off a win in El Clasico against Real Madrid, which put them 12 points clear, and will look to keep momentum going.
On paper, Barcelona are clear favorites. However, this could end up being a tricky game considering the number of injuries to important players the club is carrying.
Already without Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé, Xavi won’t be able to count on Raphinha, Frenkie de Jong or Andreas Christensen. The Brazilian is suspended and the latter two are out with injuries. De Jong could be back in time for the Copa del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid but Christensen is set to be out for a couple of weeks.
Given the absences, players from the academy like Marc Casado, Angel Alarcon, Estanis Pedrola and Aleix Garrido have earned a call-up.
The absences also provide an opportunity for other players to stake their claim for more playing time. In this case, that goes for Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres who are both expected to start.
The season hasn’t gone as either of them would have expected and have been linked with a move away from the Camp Nou. Fati’s father added fuel to the fire when he gave an interview complaining about his son’s lack of playing time where he said if it was up to him, Ansu would leave at the end of the season.
Xavi Hernandez was asked about Ansu and the comments made by his father at his pre-match press conference.
"“He is calm and focused,” Xavi said, “I only care about him, not his father or his entourage. I have also lived through similar situations, he is suffering for his son and I understand him.”Source: Sport"
It is worth pointing out that Ansu does not share the opinion of his father.
In any case, Ansu will have another chance to turn things around against Elche.
Another doubt heading into the game was that of Ronald Araújo. The Uruguayan picked up an injury against Real Madrid but was able to recover in time. The question now is whether or not he plays or is rested for the midweek cup game.
With the sizeable advantage in La Liga, Barcelona can afford to rotate. Even more so against a side who are all but relegated and have given 51 goals this season.
At the same time, Barcelona cannot underestimate any opponent, which they found out the hard way in their loss to Almeria not too long ago. They will need to come out with intensity and look to go ahead early. A win puts them one step closer to the title and continues to put the pressure on the likes of Real Madrid.
Expected Barcelona line-up:
Sergi Roberto – Koundé – Alonso – Alba
Kessié – Busquets – Gavi
Ferran Torres – Lewandowski – Ansu Fati