Within three days of returning from a successful trip to Turin, Barça travel again, this time to Álava, Basque Country. Here’s the preview of the match between Deportivo Alavés and Barcelona.
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, 31 October 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Mendizorrotza Stadium
Competition: La Liga, matchday 8
Referee: Alejandro Hernández Hernández
Seven matchdays have passed, and still, La Liga has yet to see a team dominate or be consistent. Every team till now has blown hot and cold this season with a few underdogs punching above their weight. But, several sides have played lesser matches than the others, and their position in the table is understandably low. Barça’s opponent this week, also are on the same points as the Catalan club but have played two more games.
Barcelona go on the road again as the congested fixtures list has them playing a game every three days. Barça face Deportivo Alavés who have been underperforming at home this season with only four points from a possible 12. The visitors have three from a possible six while travelling in La Liga this season.
The Blaugranas come into this game from a dominating performance against Juventus despite their winless run in the league. Drawing once and losing twice in the last three games shouts for a change of fortunes this time around in La Liga. Their opponents, however, have two wins from three recently and look to finally hit their strides under Pablo Machín.
Barcelona’s injury list increased further over the week as Ronald Araújo got off at half-time in Turin and will be out for almost a month. While Marc-André ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti have returned to training, they are yet to regain their full fitness and will remain on the sidelines. For Alavés, Rodrigo Ely has joined Pere Pons on the injury list, but Machín has enough options for backup.
What to expect from Deportivo Alavés?
Pablo Machin has used two kinds of backline this season with three or four players at the back depending on the situation. While the formation on paper seems to be different, the personnel remained the same with minor tweaks to their roles. With the players being significantly tall, they are quite strong in winning aerial duels. They have already scored twice from set-pieces this season.
With the marauding Joselu up top, and Lucas Perez running off him, they do have a potent attack. Tomas Pina and Lucas Battaglia will continue in the midfield citing the absence of the talented Pere Pons. Jota will join them in the middle with Machin likely to go with a back three to counter Barça’s four-men attacking foray.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
Ruben Duarte and Edgar Méndez are likely to be the wingbacks and will drop back out of possession to form a back-five. Pablo Machín has been consistent with his eleven trying to get the best out of the team. So, considering that the team is not in any other competition, Barcelona should not expect any surprises in the starting eleven from Alavés. With an underwhelming previous season, Deportivo are looking towards a better one this time around, with a new and proven manager in Pablo Machín.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona arguably played their best 45 minutes of football in the second half of the Juventus match. Whilst continuously creating chances, they had the game under control, leaving very little space for Juventus. Barça were territorially dominant, pressing high up the pitch, reducing a potent Juve attack to a measly xG of 0.41.
With consecutive challenging fixtures in the last two weeks, this game might be the space to rest some players who played the most. Pedri could get a well-deserved rest after impressing in a couple of games with Ansu Fati replacing him. The Spaniard only came off the bench in the mid-week fixture. Antonie Griezmann would keep his place considering the injury of Phillipe Coutinho and his improved showing vs the Old Lady.
Photo Andrea Staccioli via Imago
Gerard Piqué is back after a rest in disguise serving a suspension, partnering up with Clément Lenglet, as the only fit centre-halves. Sergiño Dest could be back in place of Sergi Roberto, giving rest for the Spaniard. Even with the defence stretched thin, Barça were quite comfortable against Juventus. One of the principal reasons for this was the improved and efficient pressing. Koeman would hope the same intensity continues.
“There is healthy competition at right-back between Dest and Roberto. Both of them have shown their quality.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-match Press Conference
While the previous game was almost perfect, the only blatantly visible flaw was the lack of finishing touch. Creating an abundance of chances, the Catalans could not put the ball in the back of the net. While it is only a matter of time before the forwards convert it into goals, the Dutch manager would be hoping it happens sooner than later.
Previous games: WLWLD
Real Valladolid 0–2 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga
Deportivo Alavés 0–2 Elche| La Liga
Deportivo Alavés 1–0 Athletic Bilbao | La Liga
Villarreal 3–1 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga
Deportivo Alavés 0–0 Getafe | La Liga
Position in La Liga
7 points in 7 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses
5 Goals Scored, 8 Goal Conceded
-3 Goal Difference
Previous games: LWLDW
Juventus 0–2 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 1–3 Real Madrid | La Liga
Barcelona 5–1 Ferencváros | UEFA Champions League
Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Position in La Liga
7 points in 5 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses
9 Goals Scored, 5 Goals Conceded
+4 Goal Difference
Last 5 meetings
Deportivo Alavés 0–5 Barcelona | La Liga 19/20
Barcelona 4–1 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga 19/20
Deportivo Alavés 0–2 Barcelona | La Liga 18/19
Barcelona 3–0 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga 18/19
Barcelona 2–1 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga 17/18
• Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 8 away matches against Deportivo Alavés in all competitions.
• Deportivo Alavés have lost their last eight games against Barcelona in all competitions.
• Alavés have failed to score in 7 of their last 8 home matches (LaLiga).
Injured: Rodrigo Ely, Pere Pons
Lejeune · Navarro · Laguardia
Méndez · Jota · Battaglia · Pina · Duarte
Joselu · Pérez
Coach: Pablo Machín
Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Philippe Coutinho (Hamstring), Ronald Araújo (Hamstring)
Technical Reasons: Riqui Puig, Matheus Fernandez
Dest · Piqué · Lenglet · Alba
Pjanic · de Jong
Trincao · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Both the teams are coming off two-nil victories in the previous games and would love to extend their form. However, considering the under-par home form of Deportivo Alavés, and the significant difference in the quality of the sides, Barcelona should walk away with an away win here.
Barça Universal’s Prediction: 0-2 win for the Catalans.
Predicted Barcelona lineup against Elche
The Copa del Rey game was an eye-opener in ways unimaginable. On the one hand, it brought some amazing takeaways. One such was the performance of Ronald Araujo, who has now not been dribbled past in his last 10 appearances.
At the same time, however, it bright to light some worrying signs. The youngsters given a chance failed to grab it tightly. The finishing was beyond poor. What more can be said of a night where the Catalans failed to score two penalties. At the end of the day, it once again required two assists from Pedri and a moment of brilliance from Dembele to take the Catalans home.
Barcelona’s tenure away from the Camp Nou goes on as they now move to the Estadio Martinez Valero. Ronald Koeman’s side now faces Elche, the 18th placed side in the Spanish top tier. Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Elche, as Ronald Koeman prepares yet another game with an unstable XI.
After a deserved rest in the Copa del Rey, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be back in duty for the Blaugranas. The German was absolutely stellar for his side in the Super Cup and will look to produce more of his magic.
Ronald Araujo’s growth as a defender can just be described as meteoric. The trajectory of the young defender is mindblowing, as he continues producing 10/10 performances game after game. He will be in the heart of defence on the night, with Clement Lenglet by his side.
Sergi Roberto and Sergino Dest are both very close to their respective returns. However, we are likely to see Oscar Mingueza get a successive start at Right-back against Elche. The Spaniard has been solid in defence, and that is all is expected from a part-time full-back.
Junior Firpo started the game against Cornella but contributed very little. Hardly anything to convince the manager. That said, Jordi Alba, himself is coming off a terrible performance in the final of the Super-cup. The Spaniard will undoubtedly start, but will he impress?
Sergio Busquets will start the night as the defensive midfielder in the 4-3-3 setup. Though maybe not his best, his performance has seen a massive spike since the formation change. He will be a crucial factor on the night, given Jorge Almiron’s rather attack-minded setup.
Frenkie de Jong has been by far the most consistent midfielder for Barcelona, and his ability to decide games is finally getting the limelight it deserves. Just over the last month, the Dutch protege has grown in leaps and bounds. He will be a crucial part of the team on Sunday.
As one talks of prodigies, Pedri is the next biggest name to pop up. Coming on as a substitute, the youngster contributed to both of Barcelona’s goals in extra time, almost single-handedly setting up the second. Pedri is wise beyond his years, and it doesn’t take more than the naked eye to see that he is something special. He will round up the midfield for the League game.
Lionel Messi continues to serve his ban and misses the trip to Elche. That said, the onus is once again on Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Greizmann to step up. The French duo is expected to start, on the left-wing and right-wing respectively.
Dembele was the man who made the difference in the cup game. The ease with which he nets bangers doesn’t quite match his inability to finish chances on a platter. He will be looking to make the most of his chance to impress in the hope he can bag a contract extension soon, and end all rumours of his departure.
Martin Braithwaite will round up the starting XI. Amidst all the confusion, the Dane continues to work at his highest rate to contribute to the team. Though his quality can be doubted, his commitment cannot. He netted the second goal against Cornella in a neat fashion. Once again, he hopes to be on the scoresheet on Sunday.
Griezmann · Braithwaite · Dembele
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Konrad de le Fuente impressed mightily in his time on the field against Cornella. His performance will surely seed the possibility of his getting more minutes in the League.
Riqui Puig could have made so much more of his chance to impress, but just couldn’t show his magic on the night. However, his quality off the bench cannot be doubted. It is a real possibility for him to see minutes on the night.
Miralem Pjanic dictated the midfield neatly in the previous game. He could feature towards the latter half of the game in place of Sergio Busquets.