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FC Barcelona will be looking to continue their fabulous league form on Saturday at the Estadio Martínez Valero (9pm CEST) as they visit 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.
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.
Elche have struggled this season. It took them so fewer than 20 games before they were able to chalk up their first win, a 3-1 defeat of Villarreal. Since then, they have also won away to Mallorca, but those rare moments of joy have done little to improve their position in the league. They are now 13 points adrift at the bottom of the table, and the chances of avoiding the drop are getting slimmer by the week.
Elche have the highest percentage of goals scored in the first quarter hour of games, five out of 19. They are both the lowest scoring (19) team in the competition and also the one that has let in the most goals (51).
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.
When Elche came to Spotify Camp Nou earlier this season, their hopes of springing a surprise were dashed early on by the sending off og Gonzalo Verdu. Two goals from Robert Lewandowski and one from Memphis got the job done for Barça.
Last five meetings
17/09/22 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 3 (Lewandowski 2, Memphis) Elche 0
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)
Enzo Roco (Chile, 32), Helibelton Palacios (Colombia, 4), Pape Diop (Senegal, 3), 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, although he is currently injured.
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. This season he has provided four assists, more than any other member of the team.
Including caretakers, Elche are onto their sixth coach this this season! Pablo Machín was shown the door less than two weeks ago, and the man in whom Elche are hoping for a miracle is Sebastián Beccacece, the long-time assistant to Jorge Sampaoli (most recently of Sevilla) at a number of clubs and also with the Chile and Argentina national teams. In recent years he has started working as a head coach, most recently at Defensa y Justicia in his native Argentina (winning the Recopa Sudamericana).
The Elche position is first in European football, and he's getting a baptism of fire with his first game against Barça!
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