FC Barcelona host SD Eibar at Camp Nou this weekend as they look to continue their 3-game winning streak in the La Liga.
Barcelona welcome gameweek 25 in the La Liga playing hosts to 16th placed Eibar who sit just 3 points off relegation zone. This would be the Catalan giants’ 9th game under new manager Quique Setien, who joined forces with the team after they were knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup by Atletico Madrid early into the new year.
The new manager has managed 6 wins, but has been defeated on 2 occasions, including getting knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Athletic Bilbao. Setien’s appointment has certainly seen some obvious positive results, specially in the way that Barcelona now approach the game.
The team looks to continuously recycle the ball with purpose and pass it around in the centre of the pitch as they move forward. The 61-year-old’s ideologies seem to resemble the ‘Barca system’ more closely than, let’s say, Ernesto Valverde.
Eibar, for the most part of the season have looked like a team that’ll fight tooth and nail to stay up. They have managed to take a few points off Atletico Madrid, Bilbao and Sevilla. However, the same did not happen when they faced the side from the Catalan capital.
The last meeting between the two sides ended in a 0-3 defeat for Eibar at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium. It was the first time Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all scored in a game.
Team News & Tactics
Barcelona’s team news barely comes as a surprise anymore. However, it is always interesting to see which academy players make the cut. Their squad has become quite thin after injuries to several key players, and the departures of others.
Star left-back Jordi Alba has been left out after picking up a hamstring injury against Getafe in the first half of the game. This would mean that second choice Junior Firpo will be starting in that position for Barca.
Clement Lenglet will be available for the hosts after serving his one game suspension. Also making the team is Sergio Akieme, Spanish left-back for Barcelona B, who will, in all likelihood start and end the game on the bench.
All first-team midfielders have been included. The exclusion of Riqui Puig will come as a disappointment to the Barcelona faithfuls. Barcelona B midfielder Alex Collado does not make the team list, either.
Ruled out with long-term recoveries after surgery, Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez will not feature in this game. Nonetheless, new signing Martin Braithwaite makes the team alongside Ansu Fati, Griezmann and Messi. Braithwaite could get his debut this weekend, and with Setien keeping an eye on the midweek clash vs Napoli, there is an outside chance that he might even start.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Firpo, Lenglet, Pique, Semedo; Vidal, de Jong, Arthur; Messi, Griezmann, Fati
Eibar are without their most experienced forward, Charles Dias, who will miss the game after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season against Deportivo Alaves.
Dias has scored only 2 goals in 18 games for Eibar this season, and would have barely been a loss for his team. However, with Kike Garcia out for several more weeks as well after picking up a muscle injury in December, Charles could have come up clutch. Eibar captain Ivan Ramis is set to miss the entire season after suffering a major knee injury mid-December.
Things do not seem to get easy for Eibar as first-choice centre back Pedro Bigas is also set to miss a few more games after he got injured against Alaves.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dmitrovic; Arbilla, Burgos, Oliveira, Angel; Diop, Cristoforo; Leon, Orellana, Inui; Enrich
- Fabian Orellana has completed 52 dribbles in La Liga this season, at least 33 more than any other Eibar player. He is also 4th in the list for successful dribbles per game in La Liga, with 2.6 per game.
- Eibar have conceded 13 goals in the last 3 games at the Camp Nou, and have managed to score just 3.
- Lionel Messi has 8 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games against Eibar.
- The last time Barcelona lost at home in the Liga was on 11th November, 2018, against Setien’s Real Betis.
- Barcelona have never lost to Eibar, a run that is now at 11 games and includes 10 wins and a draw.
Player to Watch
In a rollercoaster season for Barcelona, some things tend to remain constant: Messi pulling off results almost single-handedly, Ter Stegen making world class saves every game, Rakitic passing the ball back to the defence and Vidal not putting a foot wrong.
The Chilean star always comes up clutch for the Blaugrana. He has scored 6 goals this season in the league, already doubling his charts from 2018-19. The 32-year-old makes the perfect runs into the channels and positions himself between the defence and midfield, almost acting as an extra forward. His shift does not end there, though, he’s always seen running back to help out the defence.
The Chilean is an absolute rock and sweats blood on the football pitch. Vidal has already won 6 points for Barcelona, including the winner against Leganes. With Eibar without their best defender, and an out of form and leaky midfield, he could use his minutes to add to his goal tally for the season.
Barcelona 5-1 Eibar
Expect no miracles from the visiting side, who seem to be their absolute worst when visiting Camp Nou, like most teams. With the kind of goal-scoring record that the hosts boast, we can expect the forwards to go on a spree tomorrow.
However, Setien’s teams never look like strong defenders, and that means we might see a goal or two from the Basque outfit. That said, The Hard Tackle predicts a heavy win for Lionel Messi’s men and a good warmup before the game against Napoli with the scoreline being 5-1.