Sports Mole brings you the team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Barcelona’s La Liga clash with Eibar on Sunday night.
The Spanish champions have opened up a five-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, while they are 10 points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid in Spain’s top flight.
Visiting Eibar have drawn each of their last four in the league and sit in 13th position in the table with 22 points from their 18 matches this term.
Barcelona have not been without their problems in La Liga this season, but it does appear that Ernesto Valverde‘s side are hitting top form at the perfect time as they start to open up a bit of ground on the chasing pack.
Indeed, five straight victories in Spain’s top flight have seen the reigning champions move five points clear at the summit. When considering that Barcelona’s next three in the league are against Eibar, Leganes and Girona, it could be a little while before the teams behind them have the chance to gain some ground.
The Catalan giants will enter this weekend’s match off the back of a defeat, however, having lost 2-1 at Levante in the first leg of their last-16 Copa del Rey tie on Thursday night. It was an understrength XI, although the fans will have been disappointed with what they saw from their team.
The Champions League does not return until next month, meaning that Barcelona can focus on their domestic form over the next few weeks. As mentioned, their La Liga fixture list is quite kind, but they have work to do against Levante in the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie.
Real Madrid do not look capable of challenging Barcelona for the Spanish title this season, but Atletico Madrid have been quietly picking up results. Diego Simeone‘s side have actually only lost one of their 18 La Liga matches this season and are just five points off the pace with a lot of football still to be played.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored the goals as Barcelona beat Getafe 2-1 last weekend and those two have been in brilliant form in recent weeks. Messi now has 16 in the league this term, while Luis Suarez has managed 12, making them the two leading scorers in Spain’s top flight at this stage of the campaign.
Barcelona will be the big favourites to put another three points on the board this weekend, but Real Betis beat them at Camp Nou in the league earlier this season and Eibar will be eyeing a shock result.
Recent form: DWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWW
Five wins, seven draws and six defeats – that is how Eibar have performed in La Liga this season. A total of 22 points has left the Basque outfit in 13th position in the table, just three points off the top seven entering Week 19 in La Liga.
Since earning promotion to La Liga for the 2014-15 campaign, Eibar’s positions in Spain’s top flight have progressively improved. They actually should have been relegated in 2015 having finished in 18th, but Elche’s financial problems saw them drop out of the top flight. The 2015-16 campaign then brought a 14th-placed finish, before posting 10th in 2016-17.
Last term, Eibar finished ninth in Spain’s top flight, which was their best ever campaign in La Liga. In all honesty, Eibar should not be able to compete at this level, but they have more than proved themselves in recent seasons.
Jose Luis Mendilibar‘s side have actually only lost one of their last eight La Liga matches, which was a 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano on November 30. They beat Real Madrid 3-0 in the league towards the end of November, but have drawn each of their last four in La Liga and five in all competitions.
Eibar played out a 4-4 draw with Levante towards the start of December, while they have also shared the points with Valencia, Real Betis and Villarreal in recent weeks. A win at Camp Nou this weekend could move them as high as seventh, which would be some effort at the mid-point of the campaign.
In terms of what is ahead for the Basque outfit, they will welcome Espanyol and travel to Leganes in their two La Liga matches after this one, before opening the month of February with a home fixture against Girona.
Eibar will be looking to experienced striker Charles to score the goals this weekend. The 34-year-old has netted seven times in 18 appearances for his La Liga club this term, including three in his last three league matches.
Recent form: WLDDDD
Recent form (all competitions): LDDDDD
Valverde rung the changes for the clash with Levante on Thursday night, but not too many of his squad players impressed for the Spanish champions.
Coutinho scored a penalty against Levante on Thursday in a match where Dembele disappointed, but the France international has been in impressive form alongside Luis Suarez and Messi in recent weeks.
As for Eibar, Pedro Leon and Jordi Calavera are still on the sidelines with foot and muscular injuries respectively. Head coach Mendilibar will also have to replace key centre-back Ivan Ramis, who has a muscular problem.
Marc Cucurella is currently on loan at Eibar from Barcelona, but the 20-year-old will be allowed to face his parent club this weekend.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Arthur, Rakitic; Dembele, L Suarez, Messi
Eibar possible starting lineup:
Riesgo; Pena, Oliveira, Arbilla, Cote; Cucurella, Jordan, Diop, Orellana; Charles, Enrich
Head To Head
Barcelona recorded a 2-0 win over Eibar when the two teams last locked horns in the Basque County in February 2018. Meanwhile, the Catalan giants thumped Eibar 6-1 at Camp Nou in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou.
The two teams have locked horns on four occasions at Camp Nou in the league and Barcelona have scored 16 times, winning all four fixtures in the process.
Eibar have only scored four times against Barcelona in their eight meetings, which is an indication of the task facing the visitors this weekend.
We say: Barcelona 3-1 Eibar
Eibar have already picked up a huge result against Real Madrid this season, but we are finding it difficult to back them this weekend. Home win.