Barcelona will aim to keep pace with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga when they welcome Elche to the Sportify Camp Nou on Saturday.
The dreaded international break is nearly upon us. But clubs across Europe will attend to business before the near-fortnight-long hiatus from Monday, with Matchday 6 getting underway in La Liga. Barcelona will be in action on Saturday, with the Blaugrana playing hosts to Elche at the Spotify Camp Nou.
Barcelona’s stupendously successful summer transfer window has lifted the mood at the Spotify Camp Nou in the opening month of the 2022/23 season. And the proof has been in the pudding, with the Blaugrana cruising to four wins in five La Liga games thus far this term. The only major blemish thus far has come in the UEFA Champions League, with Bayern Munich beating them 2-0 this week.
On the other hand, Elche might be in for a long and gruelling 2022/23 season after managing only one point from their opening five games. Los Franjiverdes held Almeria to a 1-1 draw last month but have been dreadful in their other four outings, leaving Fran Escriba with an uphill task.
The corresponding fixture last season was an engrossing fixture that ended in a 3-2 win for Barcelona, with Elche coming close to snatching a point at Camp Nou. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
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— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 16, 2022
Xavi Hernandez barely has an injury concern to deal with ahead of Elche’s visit to the Spotify Camp Nou this weekend. On Saturday, the Barcelona manager will be bereft of the services of only one first-team player, with Sergi Roberto recovering from an Achilles injury.
Xavi otherwise has a fully fit squad at his disposal, with the game likely giving the Barcelona boss a chance to rotate his troops. But there is no looking past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has been resurgent in the early stages of the 2022/23 season.
Hector Bellerin will likely return to the starting eleven on Saturday, with Jules Kounde expected to move into the heart of the Barcelona defence. Kounde will line up alongside Ronald Araujo in the central defensive partnership, with Alejandro Balde likely completing the defensive unit.
Frenkie de Jong and Franck Kessie have struggled to earn starts for Barcelona thus far this term, but the duo should feature from the get-go against Elche. Kessie and de Jong will likely join Sergio Busquets in the midfield trifecta, with the Barcelona captain sitting at the base of the midfield unit.
Xavi has been easing Ansu Fati into the thick of the action, with Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha giving him the impetus to do so with their brilliant form. But Fati will likely return to the starting eleven on Saturday, with Ferran Torres also getting the chance to impress. Finally, Robert Lewandowski will spearhead the Barcelona attack against Elche this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Bellerin, Araujo, Kounde, Balde; de Jong, Busquets, Kessie; Ferran Torres, Lewandowski, Fati
Unlike his counterpart in the Barcelona dugout, Fran Escriba has a few pressing fitness issues hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to the Spotify Camp Nou. The Elche manager will be without four first-team players on Saturday.
Gonzalo Verdu (groin), Gerard Gumbau (hamstring), Omar Mascarell (Achilles), and Jony Alamo (knee) are on the sidelines, leaving Escriba hamstrung. The Elche boss will line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Edgar Badia picking himself between the sticks.
? ¡Preparados para el #BarçaElche!#MuchoElche | @LaLiga pic.twitter.com/tGSXjmSN8l
— Elche Club de Fútbol ?? (@elchecf) September 16, 2022
Enzo Roco and Pedro Bigas will likely get the nod at the heart of the Elche defence, with Pol Lirola and Nicolas Fernandez Mercau being the two full-backs. The two wide defenders will likely stay compact in the defensive phases, looking to restrict Barcelona’s forward movements.
Barcelona loanee Alex Collado is settling down nicely at Elche CF, and the young midfielder will look to restrict Frenkie de Jong on Saturday. Fidel will provide defensive support to Collado, with the duo aiming to keep things tight in the middle of the park.
Elche’s formation will transform into a 4-4-2 during the offensive phases, with Ezequiel Ponce linking up with Lucas Boye around the Barcelona box. But Ponce will drop behind Boye while counter-pressing Barcelona, with Pere Milla and Domingos Quina being the two wide attackers for Elche.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Badia; Lirola, Roco, Bigas, Mercau; Collado, Fidel; Quina, Ponce, Milla; Boye
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 19 La Liga matches against Elche (W15 D4) since a 0-1 defeat in December 1974. They are on their longest winning streak against Elche in the competition (six). At home, the Catalan giants have played 23 La Liga games against Elche without defeat (W16 D7) – the most home games they have played in the top-flight without losing to a team.
- Barcelona have won their last four La Liga games, keeping clean sheets in the last three. They have not gone four or more games without conceding in the competition since June 2020 (G5 W4 D1).
- Elche are without a win in their last five La Liga matches (D1 L4), losing their last three. The last time they suffered four top-flight defeats in a row was December 2014 (4).
- Robert Lewandowski has had the most shots on target in La Liga this season with a total of 13, one more than all Elche players combined (12).
Player to Watch
Robert Lewandowski has been sensational since joining Barcelona and will again be under the spotlight on Saturday. But the player to watch against Elche will be Ansu Fati, who has been slowly getting into his groove after recovering from long-term fitness issues.
The Spanish prodigy is not in full flow yet, but playing a struggling team like Elche might be the perfect opportunity for him to regain sharpness. Fati should be in business on Saturday, and Xavi Hernandez will be yearning for an influential performance from the teenage sensation this weekend.
Barcelona 4-0 Elche
Elche, along with Cadiz, are the only team yet to lead for a single minute in La Liga this season. So the game on Saturday can realistically go only one way, even if Xavi Hernandez names a heavily-rotated starting eleven. The Hard Tackle predicts Barcelona to run riot at the Spotify Camp Nou, with Robert Lewandowski and Ansu Fati inspiring them to a 4-0 win.
Is that possible
Barca 5-0 Elche