Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Eibar and Barcelona, including team news and predicted lineups.
Barca have once again proved to be the best team that Spain have to offer, with a total of 86 points leaving them 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid heading into the final weekend.
With a stadium that holds little over 7,000 spectators, it is still difficult to believe that Eibar can compete at this level of football. Until Huesca qualified for the top flight last term, the Basque outfit were widely regarded as the smallest club to have played in La Liga.
This is actually Eibar’s fifth straight campaign in the top flight of Spanish football; they finished 18th, 14th and 10th in their first three seasons at this level, before posting ninth last term. In all honesty, the club should find it very difficult to stay in the league, but that has not been the case once again.
Indeed, a record of 11 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats from their 37 La Liga matches this season has left them in 12th position in the table ahead of Sunday’s clash with Barca. Los Armeros can actually still finish as high as 10th, although that scenario would rely on a number of teams dropping points.
The fact that Eibar are nine points clear of the bottom three at this stage is remarkable. Jose Luis Mendilibar‘s side will enter this weekend’s match off the back of a 1-0 loss at Villarreal last weekend, but they recorded back-to-back victories over Valencia and Real Betis ahead of the clash with the Yellow Submarine.
Eibar’s home form this season has also been pretty good – winning nine of their 18 matches and suffering just four defeats. Only Real Valladolid and Atletico have beaten the Basque side on home soil in 2019, which is a record that will certainly hand the team confidence ahead of Sunday’s contest.
Charles is the team’s leading scorer this season with 14 in Spain’s top flight, while Sergi Enrich has contributed seven. They are not a side that scores bundles of goals, but they have only conceded 48 times, which is just four more than Real Madrid at this stage.
The Gunsmiths have lost all nine of their La Liga meetings with Barca, though, including a 3-0 defeat at Camp Nou earlier this season and a 2-0 loss in the corresponding game during the 2017-18 campaign.
It is difficult to imagine Eibar overcoming the Spanish champions on Sunday afternoon, but Ernesto Valverde‘s side – having already wrapped up the title with serious room to spare – will have more than one eye on the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on May 25.
Recent form: DLLWWL
Barca lost just one match en route to winning last season’s La Liga title, ultimately collecting 93 points. The Catalan giants are going to fall short of that points total this term, but it has been another excellent campaign for the club in the top flight of Spanish football.
Indeed, a record of 26 wins, eight draws and just three defeats has brought them 86 points. Atletico are once again Barca’s closest challengers, but the capital outfit sit 11 points off Valverde’s side ahead of this match. Real Madrid, meanwhile, are 18 points off the pace in third position.
As mentioned, Barca will have the chance to wrap up a domestic double when they take on Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey on May 25. Landing two major trophies would equal another strong season, but there is no question that the club will still be thinking about their Champions League exit.
The Catalan giants entered the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with Liverpool holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg at Camp Nou.
In theory, it should have been a comfortable progression through to the final, but Liverpool recorded an incredible 4-0 win at Anfield to dump Barca out of the competition. It was a huge opportunity missed for the club, particularly when considering that Tottenham Hotspur would have been their opponents in the final.
Life goes on, however, and it is shaping up to be a very interesting summer transfer window. Frenkie de Jong will be arriving from Ajax to boost the midfield, while it is understood that a number of players – including Philippe Coutinho – could be available for transfer.
Antoine Griezmann is also expected to arrive, having recently announced that he will be leaving Atletico this summer. If Barca can indeed sign the Frenchman and possibly Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax then they will be a serious force in both Spain and Europe next term.
For now, though, the team’s focus will be on the clash with Eibar. Barca will bring the best away record in the division into this match, but they lost 2-0 at Celta Vigo in their last league fixture away from Camp Nou before returning to winning ways at home to Getafe last weekend.
Recent form: DWWWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLLW
Forward Marc Cardona will also miss out due to a hamstring injury, but head coach Mendilibar has no fresh concerns from the team that started against Villarreal.
Charles could return to the starting XI after coming off the bench against the Yellow Submarine, while Kike will also be hoping to feature.
A thigh injury will also keep Coutinho on the sidelines, but Arthur could be available following a muscular issue.
Eibar possible starting lineup:
Dmitrovic; De Blasis, Ramis, Oliveira, Cote; Alvarez, Jordan; Leon, Orellana, Kike; Charles
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Cillessen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Alena, Rakitic; Malcom, Ruiz, Messi
Head To Head
Barca have won all nine of the La Liga meetings between the two teams, including a 3-0 victory in the reverse match at Camp Nou back in January.
The Catalan giants also ran out 2-0 winners in the corresponding game last term, while they have won 4-0 twice at the home of Eibar over the last few seasons.
We say: Eibar 1-2 Barcelona
Barca will be far from at full strength this weekend – Lionel Messi is available, though, which counts for a lot. Eibar have been impressive at home this season, but we expect the champions to collect all three points.