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Three talking points ahead of Elche vs Barcelona



Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

After a two-week break from club football, Barcelona return to action on Saturday night in an away clash against Elche. Coming off a special win over Real Madrid at Spotify Camp Nou, Xavi’s men will be gunning for all three points once again to get closer to the La Liga title.

Their opponents on the night, Elche, are having a rough season in the first division. They sit a whopping 55 points behind Barcelona and have just 13 points to show after 26 games in La Liga. So far, they have won just two and lost 17 of their games in the league.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Elche vs Barcelona.

1. The evil called the International break

Barcelona could not have entered the international break in a better situation. Everything, it seemed, was going in the Catalans’ favour – a last-minute El Clasico win, the 12-point lead atop La Liga and a one-goal advantage over Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

Enter the International break.

As the hiatus from club football has done innumerable times in recent history, it once again left the team handicapped with some serious negative developments.

The biggest, and arguably most vital of them, was Andreas Christensen’s calf injury on national duty.

The Danish international came off early in the game against Finland. His injury was far more serious than initially anticipated and reports have him ruled out for close to a month. He will thus even miss the Cup Clasico scheduled for next week.

The other big blow Barcelona suffered was with Frenkie de Jong. The Dutch midfielder did not travel to represent the Oranjes in the break after the club announced an injury after the game against Real Madrid on March 19th. He too will be unavailable on Saturday and could miss the blockbuster game on April 5.

To rub salt in the wounds, both Pedri and Ousmane Dembele suffered setbacks in their recovery process and will again miss a few weeks of action. With some of his biggest stars missing, the spotlight will thus be on Xavi to see how to compensate without compromising the quality.

Eric Garcia is expected to start in central defence in place of Christensen while Franck Kessie could take up duties in midfield with Sergio Busquets and Gavi.

2. Pressure on Ferran and Fati

Fati, Torres with a point to prove (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

Xavi finds himself reduced from prince to pauper ahead of Barcelona’s clash against Elche. The Spanish tactician is normally spoilt for options on the right wing. In Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha, he has two lethal wingers who are both match-winners in their own right.

The Frenchman was the undisputed starter on the right until his injury, after which the Brazilian stepped into the limelight. Over the past few months, he has rediscovered his form and come up clutch for the team on multiple occasions.

For Saturday’s clash, however, both players will not be available at the manager’s disposal. Dembele misses the game through a relapse in his injury while Raphinha must serve his one-game suspension for an accumulation of cards.

It could thus be Ferran Torres who sees a rare start at the weekend. The Spaniard claims the right wing to be his niche and must look to capitalise on Saturday in what could be his final chance to shine in his preferred role.

Barcelona’s second young Spanish forward, Ansu Fati, is not in a much better situation. After his father’s explosive interview earlier in the week, the prodigy has a point to prove to the manager regarding his commitment to the project and desire to stay.

3. Cruise mode: On

Marco Asensio’s late goal against Barcelona in El Clasico appeared to be the switch that threw open the league race again. A six-point lead would be dominant but not decisive for the Catalans. But the strike was disallowed for offside.

And as it turned out, Xavi’s men ended the game 12 points clear of Real Madrid and with La Liga all but in the bag. Yet, the men in garnet and blue cannot afford to slack.

Every aspect of the Blaugrana in La Liga this season has borne the mark of champions. With young stars, a technically gifted midfield, a solid defence, and an in-form goalkeeper, there is not much that can go wrong for Barcelona heading into the final phase of the season.

The league leaders must thus look to shift into cruise control mode and continue grinding out wins. Another month with similar form and consistency could even mathematically seal La Liga.

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