Manuel Martinez Valero
24th January, 2015; 18:00 CET
FC Barcelona players will be confident ahead of their visit to Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero as they have already beaten Elche three times this season.
There was a slump in form of the Catalan side in late 2014, but it now appears that Luis Enrique’s men have recovered well as they are on a winning streak of 5 games.
Elche, on the other hand, have always struggled to find their rhythm against FC Barcelona and they at least would be hoping to stop their losing streak against the Catalans tonight.
Going into this fixture, the confidence of Elche players will not be very high as they have already lost to FC Barcelona thrice this season.
Elche are struggling badly in La Liga as they have just 17 points to their name in first 18 games of this season and they are just a point ahead of the relegation zone.
Coach Fran Escriba would be hoping for a better display from the trio of Lomban, Roco, Pelegrin as they have failed miserably to stop the attack of FC Barcelona in their previous games against the Catalan giants this season. But back-to-back wins over Athletic Bilbao and Levante on either side of their home defeat against FC Barcelona have doubled the tally of Elche for the season and left them a point clear of the drop zone, which might prove as a confidence booster for them.
Meanwhile, Elche coach Fran Escriba does not have any fresh injury concerns and the entire squad is available for selection to him.
Predicted Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Tyton; Suarez, Lomban, Pelegrin, Albacar; Pasalic, Mosquera; Rodrigues, Coro, Jose Angel, Jonathas
FC Barcelona suffered some big setbacks in December and early January as coach Luis Enrique had a spat with star striker Lionel Messi. Luis Enrique opted to rest Leo Messi for the first game of FC Barcelona in 2015 but this decision backfired as they made a losing start to the new year.
But FC Barcelona have recovered well from the defeat in first game of new year by winning 5 consecutive games, which included two highly impressive performances against champions Atletico Madrid.
It now appears that Luis Enrique has finally found his best XI as he has made just 1 change to his starting line-up in three previous games. However, Luis Enrique is certain to make some changes to his squad from the one which played against Atletico Madrid in Copa Del Rey as the coach has not included Ivan Rakitic in his squad.
FC Barcelona looked short of confidence in the latter half of 2014 but they seem to have found their natural game back in 2015.
Elche, who are placed 16th in La Liga table are not expected to give much trouble to FC Barcelona tonight but biggest concern for Luis Enrique ahead of this game would be the form of striker Luis Suarez.
Luis Suarez moved to FC Barcelona in a deal worth 80 million euros but he has failed to justify his hefty price tag so far. But coach Luis Enrique said in his pre-match press conference that he is satisfied with the displays of Luis Suarez for FC Barcelona.
“I’m not worried at all about Luis Suarez not scoring. We are delighted with his performance, behaviour and everything he offers and will offer in the future.
“Everyone makes mistakes: players, coaches, everybody. There are few players that move like Luis Suarez does in the box so how could I be worried?”
Going into this game, Elche have secured two consecutive victories in La Liga and as a result, Luis Enrique refused to take anything for granted.
He said: “La Liga is full of surprises. There’s something that is important in football, and that is intensity. It has to be there in every game because otherwise, any team can beat you.
“I am convinced that Elche will come out with that intensity and will try to hurt us on the counter-attack.”
Meanwhile, Jeremy Mathieu is almost recovered from his injury now but he is unlikely to future in tonight’s game.
Predicted Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Claudio Bravo; Montoya, Gerard Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Luis Suarez, Messi, Neymar
Player to Watch Out For: Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is struggling badly in his debut season for FC Barcelona and he is now under a tremendous pressure to score to prove his doubters wrong. Coach Luis Enrique has already backed Luis Enrique to prove his real worth and this game against Elche offers him a great chance to get his rhythm back
Elche 1-3 FC Barcelona
Elche have secured two consecutive victories in La Liga but clash against FC Barcelona is a different ball game altogether. FC Barcelona are looking in a good shape in 2015 and minnows Elche are not expected to pose any serious challenge to them tonight.
Blast From The Past