Elche CF (18th, 17pts) vs FC Barcelona (4th, 34pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2020-21 La Liga, Matchday 20
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué, Philippe Coutinho, Sergi Roberto (out)
Elche Outs & Doubts: Fidel (out), Tete Morente, Guido Carillo, Dani Calvo, Luismi, Omenuke Mfulu (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 24, 2021, 4.15pm CET (Barcelona & Nigeria), 3.15pm GMT (UK), 10.15am ET, 7.15am PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Spain
Referee: Valentín Pizarro Gómez
VAR: José Luis González González
How to watch on TV: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), Not Available (India), others
Following an extra time victory over Cornellà to advance in the Copa del Rey, Barcelona return to action for their first La Liga game in two weeks as they visit relegation candidates Elche at the Manuel Martínez Valero Stadium.
The loss in the Spanish Super Cup was painful and the Copa performance wasn’t impressive at all, but things are different in La Liga. Barça are unbeaten in their last eight league games, with three wins in a row and one impressive win after another in the month of January.
But they’ve also done it with a thin squad thanks to injuries and suspensions, and playing 360 minutes of football in the last three games is certainly not helpful when it comes to fitness. A few players got a chance to rest against Cornellà, but it’s worth wondering whether or not the different Cup exploits will affect their league form.
Thankfully for Barça they are lucky to face a struggling Elche side that hasn’t won since October, on a twelve-game winless streak with very few encouraging moments. They did hold Real Madrid to a draw at home recently, however, so they can clearly cause trouble to the big teams.
Lionel Messi will serve the second and final game of his suspension and he will be sorely missed, so finding offense without the captain will be crucial. And for goodness’ sake, score a penalty if you get one.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Umtiti, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Griezmann, Braithwaite
Elche (4-2-3-1): Badía; Barragán, Verdu, González, Mojica; Marcone, Guti; Josan, Rigoni, Milla; Boye
I’m worried this team is way too tired from playing three straight extra times: 1-1 draw.