Match Preview: Eibar v FC Barcelona

Xavi after opening the scoring against Eibar at Camp Nou / MIGUEL RUIZ: FCB
The blaugranes travel to Ipurua for the very first time in their history with the aim of maintaining top spot in the table

After reclaiming top spot in the league last weekend thanks to the 6-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s defeat at Athletic Bilbao, Luis Enrique’s side will be in no mood to relinquish the leadership when they visit Ipurua for the very first time on Saturday at 6.00pm CET.

Team news

Luis Enrique’s side trained for the final time on Friday before the trip to the Basque Country to take on Eibar. Defender Martín Montoya took part in the session and was named in the 18 man squad after training separately from the rest of the squad on Thursday. Brazilian full back Douglas as also named in the party to travel to Gipuzkoa with both Dani Alves and Jordi Alba missing through suspension. Sergio Busquets is still out after picking up an ankle injury in the Copa del Rey against Villarreal last week and Thomas Vermaelen is also missing as he continues his recovery from surgery. The good news is that Neymar returns to the squad after serving a one game ban last weekend in the win over Rayo Vallecano.

Eibar will be without ex-Barça B man Abraham and former Espanyol defender Didac Vilà due to injury. Striker Ángel is out after a recent bout of appendicitis and midfielder and captain Dani García will also be missing due to suspension after his red card in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat away at Levante.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Barça coach Luis Enrique is not thinking beyond the game this weekend in the Basque Country despite the proximity of both the Champions League last 16 second leg tie against Manchester City and the ‘Clásico’ in the league against Real Madrid. For me there’s only one game, and that’s the Eibar game,” he assured. “Eibar are dangerous, both because of where we’re playing them and their need for points,” warned the Asturian coach.

Rival coach Gaizka Garitano is a former Eibar player and was under no illusions about the challenge facing his side: “We have respect for FC Barcelona but not fear. It will be difficult but we will try. It will be a special game for us that we will talk about for years.”

Form guide

Since the disappointment of losing at home to Málaga, the blaugranes have put together a run of four successive wins in which time they have reached the final of the Spanish Cup, took a big step towards reaching the last eight of the Champions League and reclaimed top spot in La Liga.

Eibar had been in the top of the table for most of the season before a recent run of seven consecutive defeats in the league which now leaves them in 14th place in the table just three points above the relegation zone. Garitano’s side lost just three times at home in the first half of the season but now they have lost a total of six times in Ipurua, including the last three league games in front of their own fans against Atlético, Elche and Athletic Club.

Ones to watch

Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic celebrated his 27th birthday in midweek and speaking to the press this week he admitted that the squad we’re not taking Saturday’s game lightly: “We respect Eibar and we will prepare it as well as we can.We know it will be a tough game, they are a good team and played well against us at the Camp Nou, so we know what to expect” If Xavi Hernández appears in Ipurua it will be his 750th game in official competition for the club, an amazing achievement for a man who is according to his coach is “ a positive force both on and off the field. He carries enormous weight in the locker room.”

Eibar have three former Barça players in their ranks. Abraham is out injured but both Saúl Berjón and Dani Nieto should be in the squad to face the blaugranes, Both enjoyed spells at Barça B with Berjón playing under current first team boss Luis Enrique.

History

Eibar are in their first ever season in the Spanish top flight following two successive promotion campaigns that have seen them rise from the depths of the ‘Segunda B’ to the ‘Primera División’ in just two years. The sides only ever previous meeting came back in October when the blaugranes won 3-0 in the league, with Eibar managing to hold out for nearly an hour before Xavi put the home side ahead.

Coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. And remember, you can enjoy live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The link will appear at fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.

Luis Enrique only sees Eibar

Luis Enrique pensively watches over Friday's training session. / FCB
The Barça coach avoids talk about other matches, stresses importance of next three points

In Friday’s midday press conference ahead of Saturday’s date with Eibar in Irupura, Luis Enrique pointedly emphasised the importance of this next match while trying to draw attention away from their following two games versus Manchester City and Real Madrid. “For me there’s only one game, and that’s the Eibar game,” he assured. “Eibar are dangerous, both because of where we’re playing them and their need for points,” he warned.

Here are the highlights of what he told the media:

First, Eibar

“Despite their recent defeats, they’re having a good season. They already showed us how tough they are at Camp Nou. Surely, it won’t be easy.”

“They’re hard workers and they’ll make things tough for us.”

“We live in the now. We have to win no matter what to stay in first place.”

“Our mistakes have shown is that nothing is easy. In the games we didn’t win it was because our opponents were good and we weren’t.”

Injuries

“These things happen throughout a season and you have to go on. Others will play. We’ve used a lot of players up until now.”

“The injury to Sergio Busquets is tough, but we do have reinforcements for that position.”

Xavi’s 750th game

“He is a positive force both on and off the field. He carries enormous weight in the locker room.”

“I want him to fulfil the final year of his contract so he can add to that number.

FC Barcelona name 18 for Eibar match

Rafinha during the training session / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Luis Enrique calls everyone available, except Masip, for Saturday’s trip to Ipurua

Alba and Alves are out for sanctions, as well as the injured Busquets and Vermaelen

Luis Enrique is taking 18 players to Eibar. Everyone that is available, except goalkeeper Jordi Masip, will be making the trip. Among those who are unavailable are Jordi Alba and Dani Alves, who are serving one-game sanctions, and the injured Sergio Busquets and Thomas Vermaelen.

The complete list: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Montoya, Douglas, Adriano, Bartra, Piqué, Mascherano, Mathieu, Rakitic, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta, Rafinha, Pedro, Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez.

Before the squad list was announced, the players trained on field two at the Ciutat Esportiva. No players from Barça B took part in what was the final session before Saturday’s trip to Eibar for the 6.00pm CET match.

.@FCBarcelona to make first ever visit to Ipurua

Ronaldinho dribbles in the last match Barça played at Alavés in La Liga. / FCB ARCHIVE
Eibar’s home field will become the eighth Basque stadium to host Barça for an official match

While it was just over one month ago that FC Barcelona played their first match at the new San Mamés, the Catalans will be back in the Basque Country this Saturday to face Eibar, where they will make their inaugural visit to another league ground – Ipurua Municipal Stadium. Saturday’s match against Eibar, a team in the midst of their first season in the First Division, is set for 6.00pm CET. The match will have global TV coverage.

In their history, Barça have faced seven Basque teams on the road. Eibar will be the eighth. Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad are the usual suspects. Alavés have also hosted Barça, although they have not been in the First Division since 2005/06. But the Basque football tradition goes much deeper. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Catalans faced Arenas de Getxo and Real Union, who were two of the biggest clubs back then. Barça also faced Barakaldo and Baskonia.

Who’s who

Basque football has always been intertwined with that of FC Barcelona, from the historic battle with Athletic Club in numerous Spanish Cup finals – where they will face off once again in May –  to the numerous Basque players who have played for Barça. Players like Jose Mari Bakero, Julio Salinas, Andoni Zubizarreta, Alexanco, López Rekarte, Txiki Begiristain, Xavier Eskurza, Perico Alonso, Gaizka Mendieta and Andoni Goikoetxea, among many others, have worn both Basque and Barça colours.

FC Barcelona top European scoring charts

The players celebrate one of the six goals against Rayo / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Luis Enrique’s team have scored 124 goals, with just 27 conceded so far this season

Barça’s current sweet moment of form sees them Cup finalists, atop the Spanish League and with a 1-2 lead going into the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Manchester City. Key to their success so far has been their impressive goal scoring record – 124 goals – and their solid defence, which has conceded just 27 in the 41 games played  – an average of more than 3 goals a game and a goal difference of 97.

Unstoppable front three

Of the 124 goals scored so far, Barça’s front three of Messi, Neymar and Sanchez have accounted for nearly two thirds, with 80 in all. Messi has passed the 40 goal mark for the sixth successive season and is currently on 41, whilst Neymar has 26 and Suarez 13.

That attacking trio are the clearly the most dangerous in Europe right now, with no other side coming close to their scoring figures. Real Madrid are second behind Barça in the goal scoring table with 115, 72 of them from the front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema. Bayern Munich(98) and Chelsea(93)  come next with Robben, Lewandowski and Müller accounting for 51 of Pep Guardiola’s side’s goals and Diego Costa, Hazard and Oscar bagging 39 for the London team. Italian league leaders Juventus are back in fifth with 71, with Tévez, Morata and Llorente scoring 37 goals between them.

Solid defence

Barça also have impressive figures at the back too, having conceded just 27 goals (0,65 a game), only bettered by Bayern who’ve conceded 19 at an average of  0,52 and Juventus with 24, but with an average of 0.66 goals a game. Real Madrid are back in fifth with 37 goals conceded at 0,90 a game and Chelsea just ahead of them with 36 at 0.83 a game.

Impressive stats that illuminate Luis Enrique’s team’s strengths at both ends of the pitch!

 

Team

Goals scored

Average goals per game

Goals conceded

Average goals per game

124

3.02

27

0.65

115

2.80

37

0.90

98

2,72

19

0.52

93

2.16

36

0.83

71

1.97

24

0.66