On May 11, 2014, FC Barcelona drew 0-0 in the second-to-last game of the season. That was against Elche, who were playing first division football for the first time in 35 years and who, thanks to that result, managed to secure another year among the elite. Just over three months later and the two sides will meet again, this time at the Camp Nou (Sunday, 9.00 PM CET). The team from the third most populated city in the Valencian Community have made a number of changes to their squad, and have high hopes of improving on their 16th position last term.
The man in charge for the third campaign in a row is Fran Escribá, but he has no fewer than eight new faces in his team, namely goalkeeper Prsemyslaw Tyton (on loan from PSV Eindhoven); defender Enzo Roco (Universidad Católica, Chile); midfielders Faycal Fajr (Caen) and Pedro Mosquera (Getafe), Adrián González (Rayo Vallecano) and Mario Pasalic (on loan from Chelsea), winger Víctor Rodríguez (Zaragoza), and striker Jonathas de Jesús (on loan from Pescara).
However, one major loss is Colombian World Cup star Carlos Sánchez, who has left for Premiership outfit Aston Villa. Other players that have left, either due to retirements, loans or transfers, include Toño, Alberto Botía, Mantecón, Rivera, Fidel, Carles Gil, Javi Márquez, Manu del Moral and Richmond Boakye.
But Barça will still be up against several survivors from that goalless game at the Martínez Valero, namely goalkeeper Manu Herrera, defenders Damián Suárez, David Lombán, Sergio Pelegrín and Domingo Cisma, and midfielders Garry Rodrígues and Ferran Coromines. Other players that have stayed on include Edu Albacar, Aarón and Cristian Herrera, while José Ángel Alonso and Álvaro Giménez have both been promoted from the Elche youth team.
Not many teams can claim to have gone through their whole preseason schedule without losing a match. But Elche can. This summer they have accumulated four wins (Eldense, Betis, Raja Casablanca and Tenerife) and four draws (Alcoyano, Villarreal, Albacete and Levante), getting 12 goals in the process. Pelegrín and Jose Ángel, with two each, led the goalscoring.