Relegation threatened side Elche invite Barcelona to Estadio Valero for the 20th fixture of the Liga season.
Elche is at the 16th spot in the Liga table with just 17 points after 19 match days. Being just one point and two positions above the relegation zone, its pressure which Elche acutely feel and understand that they have to do everything they can to earn as many points as possible in every coming league game as the league race tightens up. A draw against the Catalan side might not enough to ensure they are out of the relegation zone but it would certainly be an achievement for the underdog club. Elche have shown tremendous determination to stay in the Liga by winning the last two Liga games in a row but the real test of their determination will come tonight against the Barcelona side.
Ironically, Barcelona a fortnight ago had a Liga fixture against Atletico Madrid sandwiched between two Copa fixtures against Elche. And this time around they have a Liga fixture against Elche sandwiched between two Copa fixtures against Atletico Madrid. Barcelona come to this game motivated by a positive 1-0 victory over Atletico in the Copa del Rey first leg played at the Camp Nou. The fixture has not yet been settled and Luis Enrique very well knows that anything can happen in the return leg at the Calderon this midweek.
The last time around Barca trounced Elche in the return leg of the Copa by 4 goals without the key players but with a side that feature most of the second choice players. Considering the intense return leg at the Calderon, Enrique ideally should give a chance to a similar approach against Elche. However, Enrique has not highlighted his intentions of giving rest to the key players for tonight’s game. He has hinted his confidence in Luis Suarez who his still soul-searching his attacking talents of the past season with Liverpool. Enrique has optimistically said, “The goals will come.”
Barca however is aware of the run of form Elche is in. With the Chelsea player Mario Pasalic on loan at Elche the team has found an important catalyst in their pursuit of staying in the Spanish top flight. Pasalic in a recent statement to the press had made it clear that Elche are at an advantage being an underdog as they have nothing to lose and they would give their everything to finish the game with a point or three at home.
Barca has overcome a tough time at the start of the year to return to winning ways. Xavi will be likely to start tonight’s game. Speculations suggest that the in-form Rakitic and Maship have been dropped out by Enrique for tonight’s clash probably to preserve them for the important return leg against Atletico. Messi who seemingly is in pursuit to reclaim his lost honor to Ronaldo will look to weave some magic against Elche. His archrival’s side is perched at the top spot a point ahead of Barca in the table but with a game in hand. Madrid play Cordoba two hours before the kickoff to this game and whatever the result of that game Barcelona can accept nothing other than a victory against a spirited Elche side. As the second half of the Liga season starts tonight, this is the only factor that can keep the Liga race alive.
MATCH DATE: 24th January, 2015
REFEREE: Carlos Clos Gomez
VENUE: Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero
Elche: Tyton; Suarez; Cisma; Pelegrin; Roco; Niguez; Fajr; Pasalic; Adrian; Jonathas; Rodriguez;
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Jordi Alba; Mascherano; Pique; Dani Alves; Busquets; Xavi; Iniesta; Suarez; Messi; Neymar
Prediction: Elche 0 : Barcelona 4