FC Barcelona (8th, 24pts) vs Elche CF (16th, 15pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 18
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Gerard Piqué, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto, Dani Alves (out), Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembélé (doubt)
Elche Outs & Doubts: Johan Mojica, Pedro Bigas (doubt)
Date/Time: Saturday, December 18, 2021, 6.30pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 5.30pm GMT (UK), 12.30pm ET, 9.30am PT (USA), 11pm IST (India)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Javier Alberola Rojas
VAR: José María Sánchez Martínez
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA), TSN 5 (Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others
Following a trip to Saudi Arabia and a penalty shootout loss to Boca Juniors in the Maradona Cup in midweek, Barcelona return to action on Saturday for their final home match of 2021 as they welcome Elche for some La Liga football at the Greatest Stadium on Earth.
Because the Boca Juniors match was a friendly and a chance for the fringe players to get some minutes, it is hard to have any real feelings about what happened in Saudi Arabia. The last game that truly mattered was last week against Osasuna, and that was not a good watch.
Barça were slow and boring in attack and conceded two dumb goals at the back, and Xavi made questionable decision after questionable decision in what was perhaps his worst game as a manager since taking over.
The team — and the coach — badly need a response this weekend, and very few teams will give them a better chance to respond than Elche. The visitors have struggled at both ends all season, and with just one win in the last nine games they are low on confidence as well.
Xavi is still dealing with several injuries and won’t have Gerard Piqué due to a suspension, so picking a team won’t be easy. Whatever his selection is, however, the 11 players on the pitch will be more than good enough to beat Elche and put together a good performance for the home crowd.
A crucial trip to Sevilla to finish the year follows this one, so three points to boost the confidence and send Barça up the table are huge. A good performance and a good win must come together — and become a habit.
Barcelona (3-3-1-3): Ter Stegen; Araujo, García, Lenglet; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; De Jong; Dembélé, Jutglà, Abde
Elche (4-4-2): Badia; Palacios, Roco, González, Mojica; Morente, Mascarell, Marcone, Fidel; Boyé, Pérez
I legit can’t understand why I’m so optimistic even though everything about this game absolutely screams an upset: 4-0 Barça.