Tue, 06 Jun 2023

MADRID, March 31 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has to deal with a host of injuries as his side travels to play bottom of La Liga Elche on Saturday.

Barca travels to Elche with a 12-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid after a dramatic 2-1 win over their main title rivals in the last game before the international break.

However, that win came at a price as Ronald Araujo and Frenkie de Jong both suffered muscle problems, which left them recovering in Barcelona rather than joining up with their national teams during the international break.

Central defender Andreas Christensen suffered a calf injury playing for Denmark, which could keep him out of action for several weeks. That is a big loss for Barca, as Christensen has been in excellent form alongside Araujo and Jules Kounde at the back.

Meanwhile, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele are still sidelined due to their muscle problems and won't be able to play on Saturday.

While Barca should, in theory, have few problems against a rival that has won just two games all season and amassed 13 points from 26 games, Elche has a new coach Sebastian Beccacece (their fourth of the campaign) and that makes them slightly less predictable.

Pere Milla returns for Elche, although striker Lucas Boye misses the match through suspension.

Xavi has to find the balance between ensuring three points in Elche while also keeping his players as fresh as possible when they face Real Madrid once again next Wednesday in their Copa del Rey semifinal return leg.

Barca takes a 1-0 lead into the game, but Real Madrid will be gunning for revenge for their league defeat. At the moment, while Xavi is missing key players, Carlo Ancelotti has his full squad available.

Without De Jong and Araujo, Sergi Roberto is likely to come into the side to cover either at right back or in central midfield, while Eric Garcia has options to start in central defense after disappearing from the side in recent weeks. Franck Kessie will probably cover for De Jong, while youngster Pablo Torre could also figure if Xavi wants to ensure players such as Raphinha and Gavi are fresh to take on Real Madrid.

In theory, Barca is clear favorites to win in Elche, but the new Elche coach and Wednesday's Copa del Rey tie mean the result is less clear than it probably would have been.

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