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Just four days after their victorious trip to San Sebastián in the Copa del Rey against Real Sociead, Luis Enrique’s team return to the Basque Country to take on Eibar in the league. The clash in Ipurua comes in week 19 of the league campaign and the blaugranes will be looking to end the first half of the season with a victory as they currently sit in third place in the table, two points behind leaders Real Madrid and a point behind second placed Sevilla.
The blaugranes will be without the suspended Javier Mascherano for the journey north this Sunday. The Argentine picked up a fifth yellow card of the season in the league last weekend in the 5-0 win over Las Palmas and therefore is suspended for the game in Iprurua. Rafinha is still out due to injury also missing is Andrés Iniesta who picked up a calf problem in Barça’s 1-0 win against Real Sociedad in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie on Thursday in Anoeta. Luis Enrique named his squad following Saturday’s training session at the Ciutat Esportiva and the 18 man list is as follows:
Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Mathieu.
Luis Enrique’s Eibar counterpart José Luis Mendilibar will have only 17 fit senior players for the visit of Barça if Nano passes a late fitness test. The experienced coach is without Riesgo, Ramis, Arbilla, Juncà and Kike García, all due to injury.
Luis Enrique admitted in his pre-game press conference that his team need to start being consistent: “We have been looking for a long run of good results since the start of the season but we haven’t managed it yet.”
Former Osasuna, Levante and Valladolid boss Mendilibar is aware of the task facing his side on Sunday: “Barça are the best at playing that way. They are coming into form again but an out of form Barça can put five past you. They are a great team with a way of playing and with great players. If you make mistakes, they kill you.”
Luis Enrique’s team have won their last three matches in all competitions and appear to be coming into form after starting 2017 with a defeat against Athletic in the Copa del Rey and a draw at Villarreal in the league. The win in Anoeta in midweek puts them in the driving seat in their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie against Real Sociedad with the second leg to come next Thursday at Camp Nou.
Eibar are also still in the Copa del Rey but in contrast to Sunday’s opponents, the Basques lost 3-0 on Thursday in the Calderón in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Atlético Madrid. It was their second defeat in their last four matches, both coming against Diego Simeone’s team with Eibar having lost 2-0 in the league in Ipurua earlier this month. Nevertheless, last weekend’s 3-2 away at Sporting Gijón keeps them in 9th place in the table, just five points off the European places.
Barça have only ever visited Ipurua twice in their history with both encounters coming in the last two seasons. Leo Messi has played a large part in the blaugranes two wins at Eibar, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win in 2014/15 and twice again last season when Luis Enrique’s side came away with a 4-0 win.
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