Barcelona’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end in painful fashion against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, but the Blaugrana have a chance to return to winning ways this weekend when they welcome Elche to the Spotify Camp Nou for some La Liga action in what will be Barça’s final game before the international break.
The loss at the Allianz Arena left a bitter taste in the mouth because of a very good performance that should have earned the Catalans at least one point in Germany. Xavi Hernández’s men outplayed Bayern and despite the result they have proven the team can compete against Europe’s best.
Things are going really well in La Liga too, and Barça could finish the weekend top of the table if they beat Elche at home and Real Madrid don’t beat Atlético Madrid in the capital Derby on Sunday.
Elche have made a terrible start to the season but have been tough opponents for Barça in the past, and it won’t be easy to get three points against them. Here’s how we think the home team could line up on Saturday.
Having played on Tuesday and with an international break following this game, it’s unlikely that we’ll see too many rotations for Xavi in this one. But there might be a few changes at the back, with Eric García expected to return to the backline in place of Andreas Christensen.
Marcos Alonso made his first start for Barça against Bayern and wasn’t very impressive, which opens the door for Alejandro Balde to come back to the left-back spot. Jordi Alba seems like the third option at the position right now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him starting this one either as Xavi continues to search for his favorite in that slot.
Gavi and Pedri were undoubtedly the stars of the show for Barça in Munich as they ran midfield with their passing, movement and intensity, and Gavi’s much-anticipated contract renewal has finally been made official to keep one of the club’s best young talents around for at least four more years.
It seems like Barça’s best football right now comes whenever Gavi and Pedri play together in midfield, and the two will most likely keep their place for this Saturday’s game. The doubt is whether or not Sergio Busquets will start again or be given a rest, in which case Frenkie De Jong is the favorite to start in the pivot position.
Barça were held scoreless for only the second time this season but created several big chances that won’t be missed too many times if the same players find themselves in those positions again. Robert Lewandowski had a rare off-night in front of goal against his former club, but the Pole remains Barça’s best attacking threat and will certainly be hungry to put things right and find the back of the net against a poor Elche defense.
When it comes to his partners Lewy will once again be joined by Ousmane Dembélé, who was due for a bit of an off-night himself after the incredible early form he’d showed this season and will try to rebound quickly and make some decisive plays up front. The third man up front will most likely be Ansu Fati, who was unlucky not to start in Munich and deserves to play ahead of Raphinha and Ferran Torres at the moment.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Eric, Balde; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Ansu Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona will line up against Elche? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!