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How will Barcelona line up against Elche to begin La Liga’s stretch run?

The title favorites face the relegation favorites on the road

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

The final international break of the season is over, and the European season enters its stretch run with eight weeks of action that should be exhilarating. But in Spain there is very little drama as to who will win La Liga thanks to Barcelona’s crucial El Clásico win over Real Madrid that put them in prime position to win their first league title in four years.

Now the Blaugrana have 12 games left to protect the 12-point lead they’ve built in the first seven months of the campaign, and the first step towards the title is a trip to Alicante to meet last-place Elche.

The Catalans are the overwhelming favorites to win this one but have a ton of injuries to key players and another massive Clásico with a trip to the Copa del Rey Final on the line just four days away, so this certainly won’t be easy for Xavi Hernández and his troops. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Saturday.


FC Barcelona v Manchester United: Knockout Round Play-Off Leg One - UEFA Europa League Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The international break brought a lot of bad injury news for Xavi, who will be without crucial players in defense and midfield for at least the first two weeks of April and must find a way to navigate a busy and tough schedule after this one.

Andreas Christensen is out for this one with a calf injury, and Ronald Araujo is unlikely to feature at all as he deals with a groin issue that isn’t expected to keep him out of El Clásico but will force him to miss this one out of precaution. Jules Kounde escaped injury which is great news, and he’ll lead the backline most likely at center-back for this one.

Sergi Roberto likely plays right-back without Araujo and Christensen, and Marcos Alonso is the favorite to partner Kounde in the middle. It’s been a while since Jordi Alba’s played meaningful minutes, and he likely starts this one to provide some attacking punch from the full-back position against a weaker side that’ll likely park the bus.


FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Frenkie De Jong did not play for the Netherlands and likely misses El Clásico with a hamstring problem, and Pedri remains sidelined with his own hamstring injury. Midfield depth is virtually zero with Roberto likely playing right-back on Saturday, so only three options remain in the middle.

Captain Sergio Busquets enjoyed a full international break for the first time in forever as he’s retired from the national team, and he should be more than fit enough to play many if not all the minutes from now until the end of what could be his final season at Camp Nou. Franck Kessie was the hero in El Clásico and starts this one, and Gavi will complete the midfield trio.


FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Raphinha is suspended for this one and Ousmane Dembélé remains out through injury, so the front three on Saturday will be a rare one: Ferran Torres on the right, Robert Lewandowski through the middle and Ansu Fati on the left.

Ansu’s father made some explosive comments this week and it would have been very interesting to see how Xavi would respond with a fully healthy squad at his disposal, but the injuries more or less force the coach to start the Prince regardless of the controversy surrounding his lack of minutes.

Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Alonso, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Gavi; Ferran, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)

How do you think Barcelona should line up against Elche? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!

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