The lowdown on Elche CF

The lowdown on Elche CF

Time to zoom in on Barça's next opponents, who they visit on Sunday at 9.00pm CET

FC Barcelona will be looking to continue their fabulous February form into March and the month begins with a trip to Elche. Here’s a quick reminder of the essentials on the green-and-whites.

The city

Elche is a town of around a quarter of a million people in the south of the Valencian Community, although effectively it’s adjoined to the coastal city of Alicante, forming a conurbation of around 800,000 people. It’s particularly known for its association to the footwear industry and for its impressive palm groves.

The club

Elche Club de Fútbol was founded in 1923 when a number of smaller clubs merged to found one big one to represent the town. The club’s heydays were in the 1960s and 1970s, when they were regulars in La Liga, finishing as high as fifth and reaching the cup final in 1969.

They have never managed to repeat that success, only very occasionally appearing in La Liga since and never managing to stay there long. The club has also been troubled by a series of financial crises, including one that saw them relegated from La Liga in 2015 despite being 13th in the table, their best finish for almost 40 years.

After five seasons in the second division, they returned for the 2020/21 season and narrowly escaped relegation to secure another season mixing it with the big boys.

The stadium

For a relatively small club, Elche have a fabulous home ground, the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, which holds 33,732 people. Opened in 1976 it was used for the 1982 World Cup, and it was here that Hungary beat El Salvador 10-1 in the biggest win in tournament history. It also hosted the Copa del Rey Final in 2003, when a Samuel Eto’o inspired Mallorca won the title for the first time.

This season

Elche won just three of their first 18 league fixtures, meaning they spent Christmas in the relegation zone. But following a change of manager, there were considerable improvements after the new year kicked in, which saw them rise to 13th, a full eight points clear of the drop zone.

Their home form has been especially strong. They’ve not lost a league fixture on their home patch since Betis won there back in November, although Real Madrid did beat them after extra time in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.


Head to head

We have to go all the way back to 1974 to find the last occasion Elche that managed to beat Barça, when Rinus Michels was on the blaugrana bench and Johan Cruyff was still playing.

In fact, in a run dating back to 1984, Elche failed to score a single goal in ten games against Barça, which was the Catalans’ longest ever run without conceding against the same team.

That record ended when the sides met earlier this season. With Barça 2-0 up and looking very comfortable at Camp Nou, Elche suddenly scored two in a minute to tie the game 2-2, a situation ultimately resolved by Nico with a winner in the closing minutes.

Last five meetings
18/12/21 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 3 (Jutglà, Gavi, Nioco) Elche 2
24/02/21 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 3 Elche 0 (Messi 2, Alba)
24/01/21 (LIGA) Elche 0 FC Barcelona 2 (De Jong, Puig)
19/09/20 (GAMPER) FC Barcelona 1 (Griezmann) Elche 0
24/01/15 (LIGA) Elche 0 FC Barcelona 6 (Piqué, Messi 2, Neymar 2, Pedro)


The players

International caps
Javier Pastore (Argentina, 29), Enzo Roco (Chile, 28), Johan Mojica (Colombia, 16), Darío Benedetto (Argentina, 5), Helibelton Palacios (Colombia, 4), Kiko Casilla (Spain, 1), Pablo Piatti (Argentina, 1), Iván Marcone (Argentina, 1)

Barça connections
Midfielder Gerard Gumbau was at Barça B from 2014 to 2017, but did play as many as nine times for the first team in different categories of fixture. In fact (pictured below) he made his senior debut for the club in a game against Elche.

He then had decent spells at Leganés and the club where he started out, Girona, before joining Elche last summer.

Gerard Gumbau made his first team debut against Elche / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Top scorer 2021/22
Lucas Boyé (7); Pere Milla (7); Fidel (3).
Argentinian striker Boyé recently topped Jonathas (14) as Elche’s highest goalscorer in the first division of the 21st century.

The boss

Francisco Javier Rodríguez Vílchez, better known simply as Francisco, replaced the sacked Fran Escribá in November. Best known as a player from his Almería days, he then managed his hometown club after retiring. Since then, his positions have included Córdoba, Huesca and Girona.

Sometimes replacing the manager works and sometimes it does not but in Elche’s case there has been a very definite upturn in fortunes since Francisco’s appointment.

Força Barça
Força Barça

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