Barcelona will be aiming to end their three-game winless streak when they take on Elche at Camp Nou in La Liga on Saturday evening.
With just two more games left before they go into the winter break, Barcelona will be aiming to end the year on a high with a couple of wins, starting with the fixture this weekend when they play hosts to Elche.
Barcelona are currently eighth in the La Liga table following their 2-2 draw against Osasuna this past weekend. Before that, the Catalans had lost to Real Betis in La Liga and then faced defeat to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. During the week, they were involved in an unofficial clash against Boca Juniors to honour the legendary Diego Maradona, which they ended up losing on penalties.
Given that they are yet to win a single game in December, manager Xavi Hernandez will be hoping to spark a turnaround this weekend and cut down the gap to fourth-placed Atletico Madrid to just two points.
Meanwhile, Elche find themselves embroiled in the relegation battle. With just one win in their last nine La Liga games, Los Franjiverdes are 16th in the standings, just two points clear of Cadiz in 18th place. Francisco’s side lost their previous league encounter against Valencia but returned to winning ways in midweek, defeating Unionistas 1-0 in the Copa del Rey.
The corresponding fixture last season ended with a 3-0 victory for Barcelona, with Lionel Messi scoring a brace and Jordi Alba also getting his name on the scoresheet. Ahead of their latest meeting at Camp Nou, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Gerard Pique is suspended for the tie due to the accumulation of yellow cards, while Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite, Memphis Depay and Pedri are all out with injuries. Jordi Alba is back in training but might not be risked on Saturday evening by Xavi Hernandez. Dani Alves remains ineligible to play.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 17, 2021
The manager switched to a 3-3-1-3 formation in the game against Osasuna last time out and could stick with a similar shape as the wide players were able to offer more of an attacking threat than in recent games. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be manning the goal as usual for the Catalan giants.
With Pique ruled out, Eric Garcia could come into the lineup at the heart of the three-person backline. The Spaniard will be flanked by Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet on either side of him, with Samuel Umtiti expected to drop out of the lineup.
Sergio Busquets will sit at the base of the midfield for the Blaugrana and look to shield the defence while recycling possession effectively. Nico Gonzalez and Gavi will occupy the remaining two positions alongside him and look to provide the attacking thrust from the middle of the park. Meanwhile, Frenkie de Jong is likely to continue in the No. 10 role and look to add up numbers in the attacking third.
22-year-old Barcelona B forward Ferran Jutgla could be in line for a start in the No. 9 role, given the lack of natural centre-forwards in the squad. Flanking the summer arrival will be Ousmane Dembele on the right and Abde Ezzalzouli on the left, with the youngster looking to build on his impressive display against Osasuna.
Probable Lineup (3-3-1-3): ter Stegen; Araujo, Garcia, Lenglet; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; de Jong; Dembele, Jutgla, Abde
Elche will be without defender Pedro Bigas for the trip to Barcelona. However, Johan Mojica, who had been tipped as a doubt for the game, is in the travelling squad named by manager Francisco. The visitors will be setting up in a 4-4-2 formation at Camp Nou, with Edgar Badia guarding the goal.
He will be shielded by two banks of four who will stay compact and work to deny spaces to the Barcelona players to operate in. Helibelton Palacios and Johan Mojica should line up as the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively flanking the centre-back pairing of Diego Gonzalez and Enzo Roco.
Omar Mascarell and Ivan Marcone will be the two central midfielders who will look to keep a watch on the forward runs of their counterparts, Gavi and Nico Gonzalez. How successful they are in quelling the Barcelona youngsters could have an impact on the outcome of the contest. Tete Morente and Fidel will start on the flanks and hope to provide a threat on the counter.
Up top, the duo of Lucas Perez and Lucas Boye is expected to feature from kickoff. They will be aiming to cause problems to the Barcelona defence that has hardly looked assured in recent times, with their physicality and aggression.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Badia; Palacios, Gonzalez, Roco, Mojica; Morente, Mascarell, Marcone, Fidel; Perez, Boye
- Barcelona have won each of their last seven matches against Elche across all competitions.
- Elche have failed to pick up a victory in any of their previous seven away games in La Liga.
- Barcelona have recorded a clean sheet in their last nine outings against Elche in all competitions.
- Elche have won just one of their last nine La Liga matches (D3 L5).
- Barcelona have won only six of their first 16 La Liga outings in the 2021/22 campaign (D6 L4). It is their lowest tally at this stage of a season since 2003/04.
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Happy birthday, Abde! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/KfebEd3sjY
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 17, 2021
Signed only this past summer for the B team from lower league side Hercules, Abde Ezzalzouli has enjoyed a rapid upturn of fortunes as he now finds himself as a regular fixture in the first-team under Xavi. Handed his debut by interim boss Sergi Barjuan, the winger, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Friday, has taken his opportunity with both hands.
So far, the winger has made six La Liga appearances for the Blaugrana, scoring his first goal in the draw against Osasuna last time out. Having made a huge impression with his pace and attacking intent, Xavi will look up to the Spaniard again to make a difference in the final third even as the team continues to struggle with injuries.
Barcelona 2-1 Elche
Barcelona’s recent form will give Elche a glimmer of hope to come to Camp Nou and get a positive result. But, even though there have been some improvements under new manager Francisco, Los Franjiverdes are not in the best moment and could find it difficult on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Barça showed a lot of positives in the draw against Osasuna, with the likes of Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Ez Abde finding form. The young trio should step up against the home team to inspire them to a narrow win this weekend, ending their recent rut.