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FC Barcelona are at Alavés this Saturday at 9.00pm CET as they look to end of a run of three league fixtures without a win. It’s time to take a closer look at the team that stands between them and three crucial points.
Where are they from?
The club are from the picturesque city of Vitoria (or Gasteiz in Basque), which may not be as large as Bilbao or San Sebastián but is considered the de facto capital of the region because this is where all the major political institutions are based. The team itself are named not after the city, but after the province and historical region of Álava (or Araba in Basque).
Although football had been played in the city since the turn of the century, it was not until 1921 that a team called by the English name of Sport Friends opted to form an official society, known from then onwards as Deportivo Alavés.
This is the club’s fifth different spell in the top flight, their sixteenth Liga season in total, and their fifth in a row.
Although they have never won any major honours, they came close on two famous occasions.
In one of the most dramatic European nights ever, Liverpool looked to have had the 2001 UEFA Cup Final done and dusted with a 3-1 lead at half-time. But the Basques battled back. Jordi Cruyff’s late header meant it ended 4-4 to send the game into golden goal extra time, where Delfí Geli’s own goal meant the cup was headed for Merseyside.
In 2017 they reached another final, this time of the Copa del Rey. Despite a spirited start against Barça, they ended up being outclassed to the tune of a 3-1 defeat.
As well as the self-explanatory El Glorioso, Alavés are also known as the Babazorros, a Basque expression meaning ‘bean-sacks’. Though originally used to mock the people of this region, who would allegedly eat beans with everything, the club now uses the name with pride.
Opened in 1924, Mendizorrotza is the third oldest professional football stadium in Spain, and since major expansion in 1999, now holds 19,840 people, although none of that will be necessary as another game is played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 – which is also the reason why further stadium expansion plans are currently on hold.
Head to head
Since a shock 2-0 defeat at Camp Nou in 2016, Barça have won all seven of their last games against Alavés, and surprisingly it’s when playing away that they have been at their most clinical, including a 6-0 win in 2017 and a 5-0 victory earlier this year, for an overall record of 15 goals for and none against in their last four visits.
Season so far
After narrowly escaping relegation last season, 2020/21 didn’t get off to a great start for Alavés, who collected just one point from their first four games. Wins against Athletic Club and Valladolid have lifted the spirits somewhat, but the team are still down in 18th place.
Almost all the activity during the close season at Alavés involved players returning from loan or being loaned. The only sales were Bosnian Ermedin Demirović to Freiburg and Ghanaian Patrick Twumasi to Hannover, while the only new faces are Deyverson on loan from Palmeiras and Rodrigo Battaglia on loan from Sporting.
65% of the goals last season came from the boots of Joselu and Lucas Perez, and they are again the main men to watch out for in the Alavés attack.
Pablo Machín gained national attention after guiding Girona into the first division for the first time ever. Sevilla tempted him away in 2018, although he would ultimately be sacked from his position, and he would face the same fate at Espanyol. He accepted the Alavés job, replacing Juan Muñiz, in August of this year.
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