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Xavi Hernández got off to a fine start as FC Barcelona, with back-to-back wins against Espanyol and Villarreal. However, the home defeat to Real Betis and draw in Osasuna that followed have been considerably less positive. With elimination from the Champions League in the mix as well, it’s high time for a boost in fortunes with the festive break approaching. And Saturday’s game with Elche at Camp Nou provides, at least on paper, the perfect opportunity to do just that.
The team from Alicante have never won at Camp Nou before, and haven’t scored a single goal in their last ten league games against Barça (13 if we also include the Copa del Rey and Gamper Trophy). Of course, all of that is history. But Elche are currently 16th in the table with just three wins from their first 17 outings.
The game kicks off at 6.30pm CET and you can enjoy full coverage, including min x min text coverage, video analysis before, during and after the game and commentary on Radio Barça, all in our match center right here!
Barça start the weekend in eighth place, five points below of the Champions League places and 18 points adrift of the top of the table. Nothing less than three points are required from this game to start getting Barça back up where they belong.
Did you know?
13 different players have scored for Barça this season, a record matched only by Sevilla and Real Madrid after Nico and Abde added their names to the lost against Osasuna. Ilias and Jutglà also scored midweek in the Maradona Cup.
Elche have only won one of their last nine league games, and have just one away win all season (at Getafe in September).
Barça needn’t panic too much if they concede early. Elche have dropped 11 points in games where they have scored first.
Lucas Pérez scored two goals and gave one assist in his first two games at Camp Nou (playing for Deportivo), but has had no hand in any goals in the three visits that followed.
The last meeting
Barça won this fixture 3-0 last season with goals from Leo Messi (2) and Jordi Alba
Xavi Hernández announced his squad following a warm-up session in the Camp Nou stadium a few hours before the game.
A number of Barça B players are again included to cover for the spate of injuries that have hit the squad, most of which featured in the Tuesday's friendly against Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia, which the Argentine club won on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
Two of these, Álvaro Sanz and Guillem Jaime, are both in line to make their official debuts if they get on.
Sergi Roberto, Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay and Sergiño Dest all miss out though injury, and to make matters worse Gerard Piqué has picked up a yellow card suspension, Yusuf Demir dropped out late with a stomach upset and new signing Dani Alves will not be eligible for selection until January.
The good news is that despite having to come off early against Osasuna and Boca respectively, Jordi Alba and Ousmane Dembélé were both confirmed by Xavi to be fine.
"I believe in what we’re doing, so do the players, but it takes time and patience. I am very clear about what I want in the short and long term and I have informed the president.”
"We can’t count out winning trophies, even the league because I’ve seen all kinds of things happen over the years. I am positive, but I am also a realist. Our main aim is to make sure we finish in the top four”
"Some of the players are struggling to understand concepts and I find that strange at a club like Barça … It’s proving harder and taking longer than we thought but this a job in progress … We need to be brave. The players are working hard, they have a great attitude, but we need to win tomorrow … We need six points from the last two games of the year. We’re doing things right but we need to be more competitive.”
“Umtiti is going to play a lot of games … Lenglet, Eric, Umtiti... They all have to be ready because I need all of them.”
"Ter Stegen is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world but there’s a variable here: confidence. It’s all about results. If we get a positive one against Elche, we’ll all look much better.”
"Ferran Jutglà is another option. He played well the other day. The young players are making a massive contribution but we need goals. We need to be braver in the opposition’s area. Do that and we’d have won in Pamplona, but we got a lot of things wrong.”
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