Eibar, March 13: FC Barcelo have the chance to move four points clear at the top of the La Liga table and continue to pile pressure on Real Madrid when they face SD Eibar at the Ipurua Stadium here on Saturday.
It could hardly be a game of bigger contrasts as Eibar, the team with the smallest ground in La Liga with a capacity of just 5,200 fans, entertains the league leaders whose Camp Nou holds 98,000 supporters.
Barcelo travel to the Basque region just five days before the return leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at home against Manchester City. It is also a week before they entertain Real in a “Clasico” which could decide the league title, reports Xinhua.
Coach Luis Enrique is without both of his first choice fullbacks for the game after Dani Alves was sent off against Rayo Vallecano. Jordi Alba also saw a yellow card which sees him complete a cycle of five bookings.
The good news for the Barcelo coach is that both will be available for the following weekend, while a question mark hangs over talismanic Javier Mascherano, who is one booking away from suspension.
The importance of the Argentinean to the side could mean that he starts this game on the bench with Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra in central defence.
Sergio Busquets is still sidelined with an ankle injury. But Neymar is back after suspension and will presumably play alongside the in-form duo of Luis Suarez and Leo Messi in attack.
Adriano and Martin Montoya will provide cover at fullback, and the only doubt is who could play in central midfield, with Jeremy Mathieu maybe pushed forward from the back four.
While there is excitement in Eibar at the prospect of facing Barcelo, the fact is the game comes at a bad time for the club.
Their excellent first half to the season has ground to a halt in recent weeks with a run of seven consecutive defeats which have dragged them to the verge of the relegation battle.
Coach Gaizka Garitano knows that his side needs to avoid conceding an early goal to have any chance. But if his side can hold on until the break, as they did in Barcelo earlier in the season, a surprise could just be on the cards. IANS