MX23RW : Wednesday, February 24 23:33:24| >> :60:3024:3024:
Feb 24, 2021 at 6pm UK at Camp Nou
Messi (48', 69'), Alba (73')
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Preview: Barcelona vs. Elche - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's La Liga clash between Barcelona and Elche, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Following a pair of truly disheartening results in Europe and La Liga, Barcelona will be desperate to return to winning ways against a lowly Elche team in Wednesday's top-flight battle.

The hosts could only take a point from their clash with Cadiz at the weekend, whereas Elche claimed a long-awaited victory against fellow strugglers Eibar.

Match preview

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman pictured in February 2021© Reuters

Ronald Koeman claimed that Barcelona's La Liga stalemate with Cadiz was more disappointing than their humbling at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, and it is easy to see where the Dutchman is coming from.

Just days after Kylian Mbappe made Camp Nou his playground, Barcelona would have been expected to dust themselves down and march to victory over Cadiz - who beat them 2-1 earlier in the season - but the newly-promoted side dug deep and walked away with a share of the spoils in Catalonia.

It was a tale of two spot kicks as Lionel Messi's penalty - his 16th top-flight goal of the season on his record-breaking 506th La Liga appearance - was cancelled out by Alex Fernandez's successful conversion from 12 yards in the dying embers of the match, and Barcelona have now won just one of their last four matches in all competitions.

With Atletico Madrid starting to falter, third-placed Barca have missed a magnificent opportunity to heap the pressure on the league leaders - who lost to Levante at the weekend - and eight points separate Koeman's side from the capital outfit after 23 matches, with second-placed Real Madrid sandwiched in between the two sides.

Sunday's stalemate with Cadiz ended a seven-game winning run for Barcelona in the top flight, although it did extend their unbeaten streak in La Liga to 13 matches since December's defeat to the newly-promoted team, and La Blaugrana have a point to prove against Elche before they face off against Sevilla at the weekend.

Elche's Fidel celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates against Real Madrid on December 30, 2020© Reuters

In contrast, Elche will head to Catalonia with a sense of new-found confidence after finally managing to end their 16-game winless run in the top flight against fellow relegation candidates Eibar at the weekend.

A rare goal from centre-back Dani Calvo saw Fran Escriba's men take maximum points from a league fixture for the first time since October 23 - a classic case of the new manager bounce following the 55-year-old's return to the Franjiverdes hotseat.

Escriba knows exactly what it takes to succeed at Elche having been in control of the reins for three years between 2012 and 2015, and having managed to end his side's barren spell in his first game back, the former Villarreal and Celta Vigo manager has every right to feel optimistic about salvaging Elche's top-flight status for a second season.

This week's visitors to Camp Nou currently occupy 18th spot in the table - level on points with their recent victims Eibar - and while Los Franjiverdes have two games in hand over the faltering teams around them, they would do extremely well to make one of them count in Catalonia.

Elche head into the fixture having not won away from home in eight attempts since October 18, and they have not beaten Barcelona since the 1974-75 campaign, while La Blaugrana have not conceded a goal to the strugglers since 1978 - a run of 11 consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.

Barcelona La Liga form: WWWWWD
Barcelona form (all competitions): WWLWLD

Elche La Liga form: DLLDLW

Team News

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on February 13, 2021© Reuters

Koeman continues to make do without a quartet of absentees in Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Ronald Araujo and Sergi Roberto, with none of them expected to return to action for a while.

However, with the weekend's trip to Sevilla - who are on their trail - to take into account, it would be a surprise not to see Koeman freshen things up after an underwhelming week.

Oscar Mingueza and Junior Firpo are options for change in the full-back positions, while Miralem Pjanic, Riqui Puig and Trincao will all hope to earn starts this week too.

Elche coach Escriba will immediately be forced into a midfield change as Ivan Marcone is suspended for an accumulation of bookings, so Omenuke Mfulu could deputise.

Diego Gonzalez, Fidel and Jony Alamo are all expected to sit this one out for the visitors, who could also hand Helibelton Palacios his debut at right-back.

Tottenham Hotspur loanee Paulo Gazzaniga is still waiting for his first appearance for the club, but it is unlikely to come at Camp Nou.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Umtiti, Firpo; Pjanic, De Jong, Pedri; Trincao, Messi, Griezmann

Elche possible starting lineup:
Badia; Barragan, Verdu, Calvo, Mojica; Rigoni, Mfulu, Guti, Milla; Carillo, Boye

SM words green background

We say: Barcelona 2-0 Elche

Barcelona's record in this fixture speaks for itself, and even though Koeman's side have not enjoyed a pleasant week, they have a prime opportunity to right the wrongs of the weekend against one of the division's relegation candidates. Elche got off to a lightning-fast start under Escriba but we cannot see that continuing here - this should be a routine win for the Blaugrana.


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Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong celebrates scoring against Elche in La Liga on January 24, 2021
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