Saturday, October 18 2014, 20:00 CET
Camp Nou, Barcelona
Matchday 8 of La Liga will see undefeated leaders FC Barcelona host newly promoted Eibar, in an attempt to keep their lead intact ahead of El Clásico at the Santiago Bernabeu next week. Eibar have been quite impressive in their first back in La Liga, playing some nice football and getting very good results thus far, but they are naturally massive underdogs ahead of this match. A subplot to keep attention to is the very real possibility of Lionel Messi becoming the highest scorer in La Liga history – he’s currently at 249 goals, only behind Telmo Zarra’s 251 and no one would really be shocked if he scored a hat trick this weekend.
Team News and Tactical Brief
This is the last league match for Barcelona before the always eagerly anticipated El Clásico; the Catalans currently hold a 4 point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and they’ll be looking to take that lead into the Santiago Bernabeu. Another record Barcelona will be looking to prolong is not having conceded a goal in the league yet, which is already a La Liga all-time record. This will also be the last match where Luis Enrique can’t select Luis Suarez due to his suspension, the Uruguyan will be available for next week’s Clásico should Enrique decide to call him up.
Matches after an international break are never easy, with many players returning tired or jetlagged and very little time to recover and prepare properly for the match, but Eibar is probably about one of the softest opponents Barcelona could have in such a situation; not because they’re one of the weakest sides in La Liga – if the first 7 matches are anything to go by, they’re far from it – but because they play a relatively expansive brand of football and are unlikely to park the bus as most teams do at Camp Nou. In any case, Barcelona will have to stay alert; while there might be a temptation to focus on the matches against Ajax and especially Real Madrid, this one is worth just as much – 3 points – and Eibar won’t just roll over.
Luis Enrique will field the club’s trademark 4-3-3 formation; the starters are tough to predict and will depend on how fatigued players are from the international matches. Claudio Bravo should start in goal and Messi will surely start up front, but apart from that, anything could happen; all of Barcelona’s usual starting midfielders – Busquets, Rakitic and Iniesta – played a lot for their countries and might be rested here, the same being the case for Neymar. Whatever the starting XI ends up being, you can fully expect Barcelona to try and dominate from the first minute and impose their passing, possession-based style as they always do. As is often the case in this type of matches, scoring early is the key to avoid unnecessary complications.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bravo; Alba, Piqué, Bartra, Alves; Samper, Xavi, Rakitic; Munir, Sandro and Messi
Eibar have surprised a lot of people so far, playing positive football and some very decent results with 9 points in the first 7 matches, including a draw at Athletic and an excellent losing effort against Atlético. Obviously playing at Camp Nou is a whole different story, but Eibar will feel like they have nothing to lose, this is not the sort of game that their quest to stay in the first division depends on, but rather the kind of game where any point will be welcome. Eibar’s last league match saw them come back from a 0-2 half-time deficit to get a thrilling 3-3 draw at home against Levante; their defense will need to be much sharper – understatement of the year – at Camp Nou but they will surely have got some confidence off that fantastic comeback.
Gaizka Garitano is likely to field a compact 4-2-3-1 formation, with Irureta in goal and a back four of Bóveda, Alventosa, Navas and Abraham, shielded by a double pivot of Errasti and Garcia. Saúl, Arruabarrena and Lara will play behind the sole striker Angel. Eibar won’t be able to be as expansive in this match as they have in most others this season, but they will still be looking to catch Barcelona off guard with quick counterattacks. The pressure is mostly off as pretty much everyone is expecting a Barcelona win here.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Irureta; Bóveda, Aventosa, Navas, Abraham; Errasti, Garcia; Saúl, Arruabarrena, Lara; Angel
Key Match Facts
- Barcelona are yet to concede a goal in this season’s La Liga, overall goal difference is 19-0.
- Barcelona aside, Eibar have La Liga’s best defensive record away from home so far with only two goals conceded.
- This will be the first time Barcelona and Eibar face each other in a La Liga match.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Normally, all eyes are on Lionel Messi for obvious reasons, but even more so when he has a record at stake. Scoring a hattrick is of course very difficult, but no one would really be shocked if Messi did it thus becoming La Liga’s all time top scorer in the process. Even if he doesn’t you can fully expect a strong performance, after all Messi has been directly involved in the vast majority of Barcelona goals this season.
FC Barcelona 3-0 Eibar
This should be a relatively straightforward match for the Catalans, with Messi on target at least once as Barcelona cruise to the Santiago Bernabeu undefeated and quite possibly with their perfect defensive record intact.