Reigning champions Barcelona will be aiming to move to the top of the 2019-20 La Liga standings, when they face off against Eibar on Saturday afternoon.

With the international break done and dusted, La Liga returns to action this weekend. And kicking off things on Saturday will be current champions Barcelona, who will travel to the Ipurua Municipal Stadium to take on SD Eibar.

Barcelona are currently second in the La Liga table, following their 4-0 triumph over Sevilla on matchday 8 two weeks ago. With 16 points from 8 matches, Ernesto Valverde’s men are just two points behind leaders and arch rivals Real Madrid, and will be keen on usurping the top spot with all three points from their weekend trip.

Eibar find themselves in the 14th spot in the table, having managed to collect 9 points from 8 games so far. Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side are unbeaten in their last four league outings (W2 D2), during which they have picked up wins over Sevilla and Celta Vigo, while drawing their most recent fixture against Real Betis.

With Barcelona’s away form being a bit dodgy this season, Eibar will be hoping to capitalize and extend their unbeaten run on Saturday. And ahead of this exciting match-up at the Ipurua, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Eibar

Eibar are unbeaten in their last four matches (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images)

Eibar are unbeaten in their last four matches (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images)

Mendilibar will be without the services of Gonzalo Escalante, who was sent off in their previous fixture against Real Betis. Ivan Ramis and Robert Correa will also miss out for Eibar due to their respective injury problems. No other concerns for the hosts heading into the weekend clash against Barcelona.

Eibar are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation with Marko Dmitrovic in goal. Paulo Oliveira and Anaitz Arbilla will man the heart of the defence for the home team, while the full-back slots will be occupied by Pablo De Blasis and Jose Angel, who should be fit after missing the last game due to an injury.

33-year-old Pape Diop will be the man tasked with breaking up play in the middle of the park. With his usual partner Escalante suspended, Sergio Alvarez is likely yo get the nod on Saturday afternoon, while the third midfield slot should once again be taken up by summer arrival Edu Exposito.

Fabian Orellana, who is the current top scorer for Eibar, should be retained on the right flank while Japanese winger Takashi Inui should slot in on the opposite side. Spearheading the attack for Mendilibar’s side against the Catalans should be Kike Garcia.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dmitrovic; De Blasis, Oliveira, Arbilla, Angel; Alvarez, Diop, Exposito; Orellana, Kike, Inui

Barcelona

Barcelona will be without the services of Ousmane Dembele, Gerard Pique and youngster Ronald Araujo, who are all ruled out due to suspensions. Clement Lenglet is back after serving his one-match ban though, while Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo have also returned to training, having recovered from their injuries to hand the champions a boost.

Dembele is suspended for the game (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Dembele is suspended for the game (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who is reportedly set to be handed a new contract by Barcelona, is the undisputed first-choice between the sticks.

There should be a couple of alterations in defence, with Jordi Alba expected to return at left-back, which would mean Nelson Semedo moves to the right side with Sergi Roberto dropping out. Lenglet should return at the heart of the Barcelona defence and despite Umtiti’s return to fitness, Jean-Clair Todibo is likely to get the nod ahead of his compatriot at Eibar.

Arturo Vidal has impressed in the past couple of matches, but manager Valverde has found his perfect midfield trifecta in Arthur Melo, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. He is expected to stick with that combination on their trip to the Ipurua this weekend.

Captain Lionel Messi is obvious to start on the right flank for Barcelona, while Luis Suarez is the automatic pick in the centre-forward role. With Dembele out, Antoine Griezmann is expected to return to the lineup on the left, although teenage sensation Ansu Fati is also an appealing option for Valverde.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Todibo, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann

Key Stats

  • No other side has won more La Liga matches against Eibar than Barcelona (nine, level with Atletico Madrid). In addition, the reigning champions are the team with the most goals scored against them in the top-flight (33).
  • Eibar have won their last two home La Liga games – the last time they won three or more consecutive matches at the Ipurua was in December 2017 (4).
  • In their last eight away La Liga games, Barcelona have alternated between scoring two goals and failing to score at all. They netted twice against Getafe in their last match on the road.
  • Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez has scored in each of his last six La Liga games against Eibar, netting nine goals in total and assisting three.
  • Eibar manager Jose Luis Mendilibar has only won one of his 21 matches against Barcelona in all competitions (D2 L18) – a 3-2 win in La Liga in February 2012 when he was the manager at Osasuna.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi enjoys playing against Eibar (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi enjoys playing against Eibar (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Every time Barcelona take the field, the eyes are essentially on one man – talismanic captain Lionel Messi. The little magician has had a slow start to the season due to a pre-season injury, but is starting to get into his groove with each passing game and was on the scoresheet against Sevilla prior to the international break.

Messi possesses a brilliant record against Eibar. having found the back of the net on 15 occasions in nine La Liga outings against Los Armeros. He will be keen on continuing further boosting his numbers against them when Barcelona visit the Ipurua on Saturday.

Prediction

Eibar 1-2 Barcelona

Eibar are in a good space heading into the weekend clash. The hosts are currently on a four-game unbeaten run and have won their last two matches at home against Sevilla and Celta Vigo, which puts them in good stead going up against the champions.

Barcelona themselves are in good nick, having won all four of their previous matches across all competitions prior to the international break. Their away form has been a cause for concern this season, with Barcelona winning just one of their five matches on the road in all competitions, but their record against Eibar speaks for itself.

The hosts will certainly be no pushovers, but Barcelona’s recent form should help them see off their challenge and move into the top spot in the table, putting pressure on Real Madrid, who are scheduled to play later in the day.

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