Barcelona play Elche this evening at Camp Nou in La Liga according to Mundo Deportivo, a fixture that corresponds with the one the Catalans were supposed to open the season with. It marks the last they have to play to catch up after starting the season late due to European commitments, and it’s a pivotal one. Atletico Madrid’s stutter last week against Levante (twice) has opened a window for Barcelona to re-insert themselves in the title race, but it’s a narrow one that could close without victory.
Barcelona’s first objective is to regain third place after Sevilla leap-frogged them on Monday evening. Victory would regain momentum for the Blaugrana after defeat to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, as well as the aforementioned draw with Cadiz. If they fail to win this evening they can kiss La Liga goodbye, but if they win they’ll reach 50 points. This means they’ll be two from Real Madrid and just five from Atletico. If Barcelona don’t win they’ll be closer to fifth-placed Real Sociedad than Atletico.
The Elche they face won’t be the same as the one they beat a month ago through Riqui Puig’s first goal for the club. Jorge Almiron was dismissed and Fran Escriba returned, starting his second spell with the club with a victory over Eibar. He made several changes to the starting XI and led them to their first clean sheet since 6 December.