Elche CF (14th, 29pts) vs FC Barcelona (4th, 45pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 27
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Alejandro Balde (out)
Elche Outs & Doubts: Helibelton Palacios, Pedro Bigas (out), Javier Pastore (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, March 6, 2022, 4.15pm CET/WAT (Barcelona), 3.15pm GMT (UK), 10.15am ET, 7.15am PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Spain
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
VAR: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA), TSN 4 (Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others
Following a brilliant win over Athletic Bilbao and a full week of training and preparation in beautiful Catalonia, Barcelona return to action with a tough away trip in La Liga as they face Elche on the road on Sunday afternoon.
Barça come into this one having gone through a brutal February with remarkable ease, winning four of six games, playing excellent football and scoring loads of goals in the process. The January signings have settled in quickly, Xavi Hernández continues to improve his players and the team’s structure and Barça look better than almost anyone in the Spanish league as they look to finish in the Top 4.
But anyone who looks at the table and assumes Barça will simply dominate Elche is sadly mistaken: despite their position in the standings, the Green and Whites are unbeaten at home since last November, a run of results that includes wins over Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano, two of the best teams in the league this season.
They are well organized at the back and aren’t afraid to take the game to their opposition, and they made it very tough for Barça when these two teams faced off at Camp Nou with Elche coming back from 2-0 down, finding the equalizer and pushing the Blaugrana to the 85th minute when they had to be rescued by a Nico González winner.
This will not be easy even though Barça look almost unstoppable right now, and the Catalans will need to play their best stuff for all 90 minutes. Elche are a dangerous side, and they can absolutely pull off an upset. Barça must keep winning to stay in the Top 4 and control their destiny in the race for a Champions League spot, and they have the bonus of a game in hand that will continue to put pressure on the teams around them as long as Barça keep doing their job.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Araujo, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Adama, Aubameyang, Dembélé
Elche (4-4-2): Badia; Barragán, Roco, González, Mojica; Morente, Pérez, Mascarell, Chaves; Boyé, Milla
Elche are very good at home and this will not be easy at all, regardless of Barça’s form. This one has “trap game” written all over it, but I’ll still trust the good guys to do the job: 3-0 Barça.