Sports Mole previews Saturday’s La Liga clash between Elche and Barcelona, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The visitors entered the international break off the back of a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid at Camp Nou, while Elche suffered a 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, which left them rock bottom on 13 points.
Unless something extraordinary happens over the next couple of months, Elche will be playing Segunda Division football during the 2023-24 campaign.
Indeed, a record of two wins, seven draws and 17 defeats from 26 matches has seen the strugglers collect just 13 points, which has left them rooted to the bottom of the table entering the final straight.
Elche are 14 points behind 17th-placed Espanyol, so while it is not impossible to stay in the league, it is very difficult to imagine the team picking up the points required to complete what would be a great escape.
Los Franjiverdes are in their third straight campaign at this level of football, which is actually their best run in Spain’s top flight since the late 1970s, while a recent revival saw them collect four points from matches against Mallorca and Real Valladolid towards the start of March.
Elche suffered a 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad before the international break, though, which proved to be Pablo Machin‘s last game as head coach, with Sebastian Beccacece now in charge; the 42-year-old has become the team’s fourth manager of the campaign, and this will be his first experience of coaching in Spain.
Barcelona actually fell behind against Real Madrid last time out, with an own goal from Ronald Araujo sending the champions into the lead, but Sergi Roberto levelled the scores late in the first period, before Franck Kessie won it for Barcelona in the second minute of added time at the end of the 90.
The Clasico success moved Xavi‘s side 12 points clear of second-placed Real Madrid at the top of the table, and it is very difficult to imagine them relinquishing control of first position in the closing stages of the season.
Barcelona’s league form this season has been stunning – winning 22, drawing two and losing two of their 26 matches, scoring 49 times and conceding just nine; they have been comfortably the best team in Spain’s top flight this term and are well on course to win the title.
There has again been disappointment in Europe this season, exiting both the Champions League and Europa League, but the Catalan outfit won the Spanish Super Cup in January and are chasing more success in both La Liga and the Copa del Rey, where they are in the semi-finals.
Barcelona will host Real Madrid for the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final next week, holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Bernabeu, so they are in a strong position to make the final.
Blaugrana have won each of their last seven La Liga games against Elche, including a 3-0 success when the two teams locked horns for the reverse match in the middle of September.
Elche La Liga form:
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
The home side will be boosted by the return of Pere Milla, though, and the 30-year-old, who is the team’s leading goalscorer in the league this season with six, will operate in the final third of the field.
Elche possible starting lineup:
Badia; Morente, Palacios, Verdu, Gonzalez, Clerc; Fidel, Mascarell, Gumbau; Milla, Ponce
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Kounde, E Garcia, Alonso, Alba; Roberto, Busquets, Gavi; F Torres, Lewandowski, Fati
We say: Elche 0-2 Barcelona
Barcelona will be missing a number of important players for this match, but we are still finding it incredibly difficult to back against a victory for the division leaders. It might be tight in terms of the scoreline, but the Catalan outfit should have too much quality for the team at the bottom of the table.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.