Barcelona will hope to earn some breathing room at the top of the La Liga table with a home matchup against Elche.
The Spanish giants are currently tied with Atletico Madrid for first place in the league, although Barca do have the narrow edge in goal differential. This increases the pressure to come away with a victory in every single match, regardless of opponent.
They certainly are expected to come away with three points against Elche, which have only one win in the last eight league matches. This has dropped the club to 14th in the league table as scoring remains a major problem.
It will be a challenge to turn things around against Barcelona, but that is why they play the games.
When: Sunday, Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Watch: beIN Sport
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Odds (via SkyBet): Barcelona (1-14), Elche (25-1), Draw (10-1)
Top Storyline: Barcelona Are Finally Getting Healthy
According to the club's official website, goalkeeper Victor Valdes will return to action against Elche after missing 44 days and eight total matches.
Of course, the even bigger news is the potential return of superstar Lionel Messi. The forward returned to the pitch for training this week and will play his first match in months either on Sunday or a few days later against Getafe.
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC translated a quote by Andres Iniesta in discussing Messi's value to the team:
Messi has arrived, we will see when he returns to training if he will be as normal or needs to come in bit by bit. We all know how important Leo is, on the level of numbers, quality and how he intimidates opponents.
It is great news. We hope he feels confident, that he has no more problems, and that he can perform as he always has -- as the number one.
The return of Valdes and Messi is great news for Barcelona and bad news for everyone else in La Liga.
Prediction: Barcelona 4, Elche 1
Even if Messi does not play in this match, Barcelona have plenty of other players capable of putting the ball into the back of the net.
Pedro and Cesc Fabregas each came through with impressive performances against Getafe, while Neymar has five goals in his last two appearances.
Elche have played solid defense recently, but they will simply not be able to handle all of the offensive weapons Barca have to offer.
On the other hand, Elche are one of only five clubs who score less than one goal per match in La Liga. The road squad might be able to sneak a goal beyond a rusty Valdes, but that would be it.
Barcelona should be able to continue their great play at Camp Nou with their ninth victory in as many attempts.
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