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Forget Chelsea, Barcelona face tough test at in-form Eibar

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FC Barcelona vs Eibar : La Liga Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Barcelona’s thoughts already seem to be turning to next week’s Champions League clash with Chelsea, but before then Ernesto Valverde’s side face a tricky test in La Liga as they head to Eibar.

Valverde’s side made light work of Eibar back in September as they romped to a 6-1 win, with Lionel Messi scoring four times, but they can’t afford to underestimate Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side.

Eibar head into the weekend in seventh place in the table and are on a brilliant run. They have lost just once (against Atletico Madrid) in their last 12 La Liga games and claimed some impressive wins along the way.

Eibar v Sevilla - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Sevilla were thrashed 5-1 at the start of this month, Valencia were beaten in December and while a much-changed Atletico won 1-0 in January, they needed goalkeeper Jan Oblak to be at his very best.

Barca, meanwhile, have drawn their last two La Liga outings and really need a positive result to take some momentum to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The team looked jaded from their Copa del Rey efforts in the goalless draw against Getafe on Sunday, and were unable to break down a disciplined defence.

While Barcelona will have had a week off to rest, recuperate and prepare for Eibar, Valverde may also be considering a little rotation ahead of the trip to London.

And like Getafe, Eibar will battle Barcelona every step of the way. They will press, they will harry, and on a tight little pitch Valverde’s side will be denied space and time on the ball.

Barcelona v Getafe - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona will also be aware that their lead at the top was cut to seven points last weekend, and more dropped points will give Atletico Madrid the chance to close the gap again.

Atleti host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, following a Europa League trip to FC Copenhagen on Thursday, and Valverde may just be hoping his former team can do him a favour.

It’s also worth noting that Chelsea are playing on Friday night, a fifth round FA Cup clash tie at home to Championship strugglers Hull City, a game which Antonio Conte is expected to rotate as his side then face Manchester United and City in the Premier League.

Let’s not forget Barca remain in great shape in the league, and with a Copa del Rey final to look forward to, but can’t afford to be distracted by the Champions League at Eibar.