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FC Barcelona host Alavés this Saturday at 4.00pm CET in the final fixture of the year. We take a closer look at the club currently ranked fourteenth in the league standings.
Where are they from?
The club are from the picturesque city of Vitoria (or Gasteiz in Basque), which may not be as large as Bilbao or San Sebastián but is considered the de facto capital of the region because this is where all the major political institutions are based. The team itself are named not after the city, but after the province and historical region of Álava (or Araba in Basque).
Although football had been played in the city since the turn of the century, it was not until 1921 that a team called by the English name of Sport Friends opted to form an official society, known from then onwards as Deportivo Alavés.
This is the club’s fifth different spell in the top flight, their fifteenth Liga season in total, and their fourth in a row.
Although they have never won any major honours, they came close on two famous occasions.
In one of the most dramatic European nights ever, Liverpool looked to have had the 2001 UEFA Cup Final done and dusted with a 3-1 lead at half-time. But the Basques battled back. Jordi Cruyff’s late header settled things at 4-4 to send the game into golden goal extra time, where Delfí Geli’s own goal meant the cup was headed for Merseyside.
In 2017 they reached another final, this time of the Copa del Rey. They met Barça in the final, and despite a spirited start, ended up being outclassed to the tune of a 3-1 defeat.
As well as the self-explanatory El Glorioso, Alavés are also known as the Babazorros, a Basque expression meaning ‘bean-sacks’. Though originally used to mock the people of this region, who would allegedly eat beans with everything, the club now uses the name with pride.
Head to head
Results in the last two decades have included 7-1, 6-1 and 6-0 wins for Barça, and the last five meetings have seen the Catalans score 15 goals and concede just one.
But the Basques are never a side to be taken lightly. They have won twice at Camp Nou this century, most recently in 2017.
Alavés have not been having a spectacular season but they have done enough, mainly at home, to put five points between them and the relegation zone. Their win at Eibar in November is their only one on the road this season.
Midweek, Alavés’ Copa del Rey dream came to an alarmingly early end with 3-1 defeat at fourth-tier Jaen.
Most capped internationals: Mubarak Wakaso (Ghana, 58), John Guidetti (Sweden, 28), Dani Torres (Colombia, 14), Oliver Burke (Scotland, 10)
Barça connections: Midfielder Aleix Vidal was at Barça for three seasons from 2015 to 2018. He failed to hold down a regular place under Luis Enrique, and also missed a long period with a nasty ankle injury, before returning to Sevilla, from where he is currently playing on loan to Barça.
Top scorers 2019/20: Lucas Perez (8), Joselu (7)
A product of the Athletic Club academy, Asier Garitano never played first division football but earned huge respect for guiding Leganés from the third tier to its first ever appearance in La Liga. Before taking over at Alavés, he also managed Real Sociedad.
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