Barcelona will hope to end their 2020/21 La Liga campaign strongly when they take on rock-bottom SD Eibar at the Ipurua on Saturday.
The 2020/21 La Liga season is set to reach an exciting climax, as the two Madrid sides battle it out for the title. To their dismay, Barcelona are no longer involved in the title race and will play a dead rubber on Saturday evening, when they lock horns with SD Eibar at the Ipurua.
SD Eibar have endured a horrific 2020/21 campaign in La Liga, which is ending with relegation for the Basque outfit despite an attempted late flurry, which has seen them lose just once in their last four outings. To make matters even more concerning, Jose Luis Mendilibar & co. have the worst home record, having managed to rake in just 13 points from 18 games, winning only twice.
Barcelona, on the other hand, started the season slowly and are ending it on a similar note. Right in the middle of those forgettable spells, the Blaugrana were by far the best team in La Liga, with this run helping them close the gap to Atletico Madrid considerably. However, the Catalans have made a meal of some winnable games, grabbing all three points in just one of their last five outings.
The reverse fixture, played at Camp Nou back in December, saw Barcelona come from a goal down to hold Eibar to a 1-1 draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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— SD Eibar 🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@SDEibarEN) May 21, 2021
Jose Luis Mendilibar does not have any pressing injury concerns whatsoever hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Barcelona. In fact, on Saturday, the Eibar manager has a full-strength squad at his disposal.
Marko Dmitrovic is an automatic pick in goal for Eibar, who ought to line up in a 4-4-2 formation against Barcelona. Paulo Oliveira and Anaitz Arbilla will form the central defensive partnership for the hosts, with Rober and Jose Angel being the two full-backs, who will largely stay pinned back but will also look to send in a few deliveries from the flanks when afforded the chance to do so.
The second line of press for Eibar will be formed by a flat bank of four, with Miguel Atienza and Edu Exposito shoring up the defensive side of things. Recio and Bryan Gil, who has been linked with a possible switch to Barcelona, will be the two wide men, with the duo providing the creative impetus higher up.
Finally, the strike partnership will be formed by Kike Garcia and Sergi Enrich, with the duo largely remaining central and looking to play off the shoulders of the the Barcelona defenders.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Dmitrovic; Rober, Oliveira, Arbilla, Angel; Recio, Atienza, Exposito, Gil; Kike, Enrich
Unlike his counterpart in the Eibar dugout, Ronald Koeman has a number of fresh roster issues to deal with ahead of the trip to the Ipurua. On Saturday, the Barcelona manager will have to make do without as many as five first-team players, with a couple of other squad members afforded a rest.
Clement Lenglet will serve a one-match ban after being sent off last time out against Celta Vigo, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen is done for the season after sustaining a knee injury and is undergoing a procedure to get the issue fixed. Apart from the duo, the likes of Sergi Roberto (knock), Ansu Fati (knee) and Philippe Coutinho (knee) also remain sidelined.
In addition, Lionel Messi has not trained with the team ahead of the game this weekend, and the Barcelona captain, along with Pedri, have been handed a rest by Koeman, with the duo excluded from the travelling squad. Therefore, widespread changes can be expected when Barcelona take on Eibar on Saturday.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 21, 2021
Neto is a certain starter in goal for Barcelona, in what could be his final appearance for the club, with the team lining up in their usual 3-5-2 setup. Lenglet’s void will likely be filled by Samuel Umtiti, with Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo retaining their spots despite sub-par showings last time out.
Up ahead in midfield, Sergio Busquets could be afforded a rest as well, meaning Miralem Pjanic, who has been linked with a possible summer exit, could start at the base of the three-man unit. Riqui Puig might get a rare start as well, with Frenkie de Jong the only regular retaining his spot.
Sergino Dest ought to be recalled at right wing-back, while Junior Firpo is likely to get a rare start on the left flank. Finally, the strike partnership should be formed by Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, with Francisco Trincao and Martin Braithwaite due to get a look-in later in the game.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Neto; Araujo, Pique, Umtiti; Dest, de Jong, Pjanic, Puig, Firpo; Griezmann, Dembele
- Eibar have played more games without a win against Barcelona than they have against any other side in La Liga (P13 D2 L11). In addition, they have conceded 42 goals against the Catalan giants in the competition, more than they have against any other team.
- Barcelona have found the back of the net in each of their 13 meetings with Eibar in La Liga. Besides, they have scored two or more goals in 12 of the 13 clashes, only failing to do so in the most recent match-up – a 1-1 draw back in December.
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last six visits to the Ipurua (W5 D1), keeping a clean sheet in five of those games and failing to win on the only visit they conceded a goal.
- Eibar have lost just one of their last four games in La Liga (W2 D1), but that defeat confirmed relegation from La Liga.
- Barcelona have suffered seven defeats in La Liga this season in 37 games so far (W23 D7), their worst-ever tally in a single league campaign since 2007/08 (W19 D10 L9).
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2020/21 has turned out to be a roller-coaster of a campaign for Ousmane Dembele, who has had a brief flurry, but has mostly managed to disappoint. The season is ending on a sour note for the French forward, who lost his place before being deployed as a wing-back in the last couple of games.
However, with Lionel Messi securing the permission to be rested for the final game of the season, now is the chance for Dembele to show that he still has a lot to offer. With the summer transfer window set to herald the arrival of at least two quality attacking players in Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, Dembele is running out of time to make an impression. It really is now or never for him.
SD Eibar 1-2 Barcelona
This is a game that could well be too close to call. Eibar have been relegated from La Liga and will be desperate to bow out on a high. The hosts will have the chance to spring a surprise and win for the very first time in the league against Barcelona, who will be heavily rotated on Saturday.
However, with both Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann having a point or two to prove, the Catalan giants might have enough quality to edge Eibar by the odd goal. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ronald Koeman & co. in what could be the Dutch manager’s final game in-charge of Barcelona.