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FC Barcelona will be looking to continue their fabulous league form on Saturday at Spotify Camp Nou (4.15pm CEST) as they host Elche. Here’s a quick reminder of the essentials on the green-and-whites.
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.
Elche Club de Fútbol was founded in 1923 when a number of smaller clubs merged into 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 after two successful battles against relegation are now playing in the top league for the third year in a row.
Elche ended up 13th last season, four points clear of the drop. Judging by their results so far, they are destined for another difficult season. A point from a 1-1 draw with Almeria is all they have to show from their first five outings, and they have only managed to score two goals, and none away from home.
Their two most recent games have seen them concede four goals both times, a 4-0 defeat in Villarreal followed by last week's 4-1 loss at home to Athletic Club.
That leaves them second-to-last in the table, only ahead of Cadiz, who have lost every game so far.
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 last 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.
Elche scored again in the return meeting at their own ground, and actually led going into the last half hour but the Catalans managed to turn things around in the end.
Last five meetings
06/03/22 (LIGA) Elche 1 FC Barcelona 2 (Torres, Memphis)
18/12/21 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 3 (Jutglà, Gavi, Nico) 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
Federico Fernández (Argentina, 32), Enzo Roco (Chile, 32), Javier Pastore (Argentina, 29), Helibelton Palacios (Colombia, 4), Lucas Boyé (Argentina, 1)
Midfielder Alex Collado has been on FC Barcelona's books since 2010s and came to captain Barça B before being loaned to Granada last season. He's at Elche on a similar deal but still officially belongs to Barça.
Midfielder Gerard Gumbau was at Barça B from 2014 to 2017, and also played 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 two summers ago.
Francisco Javier Rodríguez Vílchez, better known simply as Francisco, replaced the sacked Fran Escribá in November of last year. Best known as a player from his Almería days, he then managed his hometown club after retiring. Since then, his other positions have included Córdoba, Huesca and Girona.
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