Barça are set to return to Elche for their first league game in a quarter of a century. Sunday’s opponents are at long last playing top flight football again, thus renewing a fixture that despite 19 meetings in the past, mainly in the sixties and seventies, has become a rarity in the modern era.
That last encounter between the sides was just the second match after Johan Cruyff had taken his seat on the Barça bench. That was September 11, 1988, with the Catalans away to a side that had just been promoted into the first division. There were some illustrious names in the team that day, including Zubizarreta, Eusebio, Amor and Roura, who are all now on the club staff. A 26th birthday double from Salinas and another from Alexanko secured a 3-0 win. Elche went straight back down at the end of the season, and the sides haven’t met in the league since.
That was also the first time Elche played an official match since the renaming of their stadium. Inaugurated in 1976, until 1988 it had simply been called the ‘Nou Estadi de l’Elx’ (New Elche Stadium). But that season it became officially known as the Estadi Martínez Valero in order of the club’s former present Manuel Martínez Valero who had died not long before.