This is Sportstar's blog/highlights of the 2020-21 La Liga Santander outing between Barcelona and Elche at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
That's all for tonight, folks. Do join us for more live action soon.
Barca has dislodged Sevilla to jump to third on the La Liga table with 37 points.
The Result: It has been a fairly dominant display from the visitor sans Lionel Messi. Elche, however, had a brisk start by putting Barca on the back foot with crisp chances. But the Catalans snapped back through Frenkie de Jong in the 40th minute and Barca struggled to maintain the lead against a probing Elche attack.
Barca would certainly rue all the missed chances while credit is due to Elche's goalkeeper Bedia, without whom it might have conceded more goals. Barca will certainly be happy to clear out this game and rack up its ninth consecutive unbeaten match in the League. Despite the a 2-0 win, it was a fairly below-par performance against a relagation side while Mess's absence was an obvious factor.
And the referee's whistles blow! Elche 0 - 2 Barcelona.
90' GOAL, BARCELONA! A stellar header from Riqui Puig, a minute after coming as a sub. De Jong moves deep in from the right and cuts across an inch-perfect chip and Puig made no mistake. His first goal for the Barcelona senior team! And that must surely seal the three points.
86' EXCELLENT SAVE FROM BEDIA! Trincao has another strong chance from a Griezmann cross. He launches a powerful header and Bedia has managed to pull off another spectacular save.
82' CHANCE, BARCA! Trincao nearly doubled the lead for Barca. He swiftly moves in through the right flank and cuts past a defender to make space and went for a full-blooded shot but Bedia stood brave to push it out of danger.
SUB: ELCHE - Nino in for Rodriguez
80' Ten minutes left in regulation time. Barca still holds the tight rope over Elche who has slowly faded away from the game after an excellent start. The Catalans will certainly be disappointed in not having score more than one tonight.
SUB: ELCHE - Morente, Sanchez in for Guti, Rigone
SUB: BARCA- Trincao in for Dembele
72' Another burst from Pedri into the box. He over dribbles it to the far left and fails to make hay from another good opportunity.
66' CHANCE, BARCA Pedri runs in with intent and attempts a shot which takes a deflection of an Elche defender and goalkeeper Bedia barely manages to keep it out of harm's length.
61' A sloppy piece of finishing from Griezmann who has the ball within striking range. The Frenchman tries a cheeky nudge to the right corner and squanders yet another chance.
55' CHANCE, ELCHE! AND RIGONE misses! A massive chance for an equaliser from Elche has been thwarted by Ter Stegen. The German has blocked Rigone who was clear of the defence and had only the goalkeeper in front of him. Rigone tried to shoot to the far right of Ter Stegen but an excellent stretch from him has helped Barca maintain the lead.
55' Barca growing in confidence. Griezmann and Co. have created more space up-front and continues to lack in rewards.
49' De Jong has been a different man ever since the goal. He has forced more crosses and created more chances here in the second half in just three minutes. A second goal is looming large.
GOAL, BARCELONA! A stifling cross from Brathwaite on the left which meets Griezmann who forces the header to the left of the post. Frenkie De Jong leaps on the ball and drives it home for the visitor. A much deserved goal for Barca after keeping the control throughout without much luck.
33' CHANCE! Dembele with another quick run into the box and finds little room to weave in a shot. He passes the ball back to Busquets who smashes in a shot but Edgar Bedia has cut the ball short.
30' Barca dominates possession but has managed nothing more than that. In fact Elche's only chance on goal looked more threatening. Demebele's manic feet have provided the occassional run-ins but the Elche defense has stood up to the challenge.
23' FOUL, ELCHE - A wry, needless tackle from Rigoni to bring down Mingueza. Barca on another set piece.
20' MASSIVE CHANCE for Elche: Their first clear chance goal and boy it was close! Boye slides into the box but fails to go past the defense from the left. He chips the ball to Raul Guti who heads just inches wide above the post.
16' Barca has been consistent with the passing and has dominated possession throughout. Frustrated signs from Elche who has shown a hint of aggression and has conceded four free kicks by now..
12' FREE KICK for Barca Dembele takes the set piece and whips in a fairly low cross but finds Griezmann on the header. Elche goalkeeper minimises the trouble with a safe pouch.
9' An agile solo run from De Jong pushes the ball into the Elche box but Verdu puts in the slide to deflect the ball. Brathwaite rises on the ball once again but the Elche defense has quelled the danger again.
5' Dembele and Griezmann exchange quick passes before moving the ball to Brathwaite and the Elche defenders manage to clear the ball to force the first corner of the game.
2' Elche's Mojica runs through the left flank in a bid to provide an early cross but Araujo numbers in on him and clears the ball.
MATCH UNDERWAY. Elche gets the ball rolling as Barca players adorn their black kit for the game.
Kickoff in under two minutes. Can Barca put behind the Copa Del Rey final loss to continue its La Liga win streak? Stay tuned as action begins. A desperate match for both teams for multiple reasons.
8:30 pm - A lot of discussion and debates on who must step up in Messi's absence to take up a penalty if need be for Barca tonight? An obvious choice would be Griezmann. But the pundits seem to have thrown in the names of young Pedri while also mentioning GK, Ter Stegen to maybe step up!!
8:20 pm The home team is going through an intense training session now. Surely, they'll hope for a massive moment here to lend the side some inspiration to take on the Catalans.
8:15 pm - We are 40 minutes away from action. Barca's players are out on the pitch to have their bits of preps stacked in. With a string of their first XI players missing out, can a depleted Barca add to Elche's 2021 misery?
The Lineups are out!
Barcelona XI (4-3-3): Ter Stegen - Mingueza, Araujo, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, De Jong, Dembele, Pedri, Griezmann, Braithwaite
Elche XI (3-4-3): Edgar Bedia, Josema Sanchez, Gonzalo Verdu,D Gonzalez, Barragan, Marcone,Raul Guti, Mojica, Josan Fernandez, Boye, Pere Milla
TEAM NEWS & PREDICTED LINEUPS:
HEAD-TO-HEAD - Elche vs Barcelona
Barcelona returns to La Liga action in a crucial Sunday meeting against the 18th-ranked Elche.
In another frustrating season, Barca finds itself in a trivial spot after a sluggish start to the season. However, the Catalans have reinvented themselves to find positive form since early December.
The Ronald Koeman led side is currently on an eight-match unbeaten streak in La Liga since its 2-1 loss to Cadiz last month. The Spanish giant will not want another slip-up as it finds itself fourth on the league table and 10 points behind leader Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona will be without its talisman Lionel Messi who was suspended for two games after hitting an opponent in the Spanish Super Cup final against Athletic Bilbao.
In an aim to jump the ladder, Koeman and Co. will meet Elche who is reeling at the bottom of La Liga with as many as six losses in its last 17 games of the season.
Elche ended 2020 by holding league champion Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw, but in a woeful start to the year, Los Franjiverdes have failed to win any of their matches this year while also being knocked out of Copa Del Rey at the hands Rayo Vallecano.
Their recent clashes with Barca does not hold them in good stead either, having suffered losses in last five encounters on massive margins.
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