Talking points ahead of Eibar v FC Barcelona

Free-scoring Eibar are enjoying their most high-flying season evcr / SDEIBAR.COM
A look at some of the key issues behind what promises to be a cracking game at the little Ipurua stadium

Eibar are having a wonderful second season in the top flight, and a place in the Europa League is not out of the question. There’s plenty to look forward in a game that kicks off at 4.00pm CET, and here are some of the highlights.

Fortress Ipurua

The 6,300 capacity home of Eibar doesn’t even make Spain’s Top 100 biggest stadiums, and the Barça players are going to need to adjust to very different surroundings to those that they are used to.

Other teams have already struggled at Ipurua this season, for only Barça (10), Villarreal (7) and Atlético Madrid (6) have conceded fewer goals at home than the Basques. They score goals too. In fact, only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have a higher overall total than Eibar.

‘Van’ Bastón

One of the pearls of the Atlético Madrid academy, Borja Bastón is having a wonderful season on loan to Eibar, scoring 16 goals in all competitions.

His 60.7% goal conversion rate is one of the best in La Liga, only topped by Messi, Aduriz and Benzema. Pretty illustrious company for the 23 year old, who was named Liga Player of the Month for October.

Bitter memories

Eibar were relegated to the second division on the very final day of last season when Deportivo managed to come from two goals down to steal a point at the Camp Nou. Although they were eventually saved when Elche were demoted instead for administrative reasons, some Eibar fans feel they have a bone to pick with Luis Enrique and his team.

The Barça manager doesn’t think that’s a fair reaction. “We competed as hard as we could in that game” he says. “We were winning 2-0 but we went a man down and still created a lot of chances. We did our job however people want to interpret things. Our conscience is clear.”

Ins and outs

Against Rayo, it was Dani Alves who was out through suspension, and now it’s his compatriot Neymar who will miss a road trip for the same reason. The only player who’s now one yellow card away from an enforced rest is Javier Mascherano.

The good news in Luis Enrique’s squad selection was Ivan Rakitic. He was unable to train due to pain in his foot on Friday, but the Croatian is making the trip regardless.

Eyes on Valencia

Real Madrid are nine points adrift of Barça even after their 7-1 drubbing of Celta on Saturday, although Cristiano Ronaldo’s four goals have changed things around at the top of the goalscoring charts.

At least as things stand at present, Atlético Madrid are the real threat to Barça’s title challenge. But two hours after the final whistle at Ipurua, Diego Simeone’s side face a very difficult game away to Valencia, who seem to have finally found the form that Gary Neville has been looking for. There is always the danger of speaking too soon, but Barça’s league position might look even better than ever by the end of the weekend. Fingers crossed…