How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Elche

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How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Elche
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Pedro Rodriguez will be aiming to help take the La Liga title race into the final game of the season.

Barcelona travel to Elche on the penultimate week of the season with a hope of still being able to secure the La Liga title.

After a draw at home to Getafe last weekend, even Xavi Hernandez was moved to say to AS, reported by Goal.com via beIN Sports:

We're screwed. We didn't have a good season, luck was not on our side and we were not competitive in many aspects. Despite the Supercopa de Espana win, we must wipe this season clear.

We have to be self-critical. Except for a miracle, we have lost the league. We have to improve a lot, but from within.

Unbelievably, that miracle arrived the very next day in the form of defeat for Atletico Madrid at Levante and a home draw for Real Madrid against Valencia, only secured via a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo back-heel volley.

Although the title race is still for either of the Madrid sides to lose, another slip-up by Real in their final three games hands Barca the advantage.

In simple terms, Tata Martino's men would then only need to win their final two matches to take a title that seemed impossible just a week ago. He could certainly do with another Alexis Sanchez masterclass similar to the reverse fixture in January:

Given Xavi's statement, Barca clearly have work to do, and they must arrive at Elche with the right attitude.

Having already lost away games at Granada and Real Valladolid, Barcelona fans will not accept another defeat, even though Elche will present a far tougher proposition than the two aforementioned.

Just ask Real Madrid, who could only triumph at Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero via a highly dubious last-minute penalty.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
There was uproar when Real Madrid were awarded a last-minute penalty to defeat Elche earlier this season.

Where Martino may have previously deigned to rest a few of his stars for the last two matches, the unexpected twist in the title race means that Barca go again with a full first XI travelling to the Alicante region.

Former Barca defender Alberto Botia won't be facing the Blaugrana after receiving a straight red card in his last game against Malaga, and his omission at the back weakens Elche significantly.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Former Barca player Alberto Botia won't be playing against the Blaugrana after his sending off at Malaga.

If Lionel Messi works the gaps between Carlos Sanchez, Ruben Perez and the back line, then Barca are likely to profit heavily.

Pedro Rodriguez's pace down the left side is also likely to trouble Damian Suarez all game long. Alexis Sanchez will complete the front three as Barca go all out to take things into the final game of the season.

Whilst Elche would appear to be safe for another season, manager Fran Escriba will set up in an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation to take the game to Barca.

Therefore, a midfield of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta must be on their mettle and ready to repel the swift counters of the home side.

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Jose Manuel Pinto could well be making his penultimate appearance between the sticks for the Blaugrana, as could Javier Mascherano, if recent transfer rumours via Miguel Angel Lara of Marca are true.

Dani Alves has already told his Brazil team-mates that he is moving to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer according to Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail, so we've potentially only 180 minutes left to enjoy this Barcelona defence as it is.

Marc Bartra continues to impress and will keep his place alongside Mascherano, and Adriano Correia will complete the lineup.

Nothing less than a win is good enough in the most fascinating ending to a La Liga season in years.

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