Welcome to our live online coverage of Alavés vs Barcelona in week 22 of LaLiga Santander action from the Mendizorrotza stadium in Vitoria with kick-off at 16:15 CET.
Preview: Alavés vs Barcelona, LaLiga Santander week 22
After the midweek Copa semi-finals Saturday’s league encounter has turned into a dress rehearsal for the cup final on May 27. Alavés beat Celta 1-0 on Wednesday night to book their place in the final while Barcelona drew with Atlético in Camp Nou to go through on aggregate. In the return fixture at Camp Nou back in September, Alavés pulled off one of the shocks of the season by defeating the reigning Liga champions 2-1.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s stewardship of Alavés this season will be remembered for a long time in Vitoria. His side have reached the Copa del Rey final for the first time in the club’s history and are comfortably placed in La Liga on 27 points with their gaze fixed more on the European places above them than the relegation mire below. It is easy to forget that Alavés were promoted from Segunda last season after 10 years in the second and third tiers of Spanish football and they have competed on a very level field with all the established clubs this season on the basis of the fifth most-effective defence in the division. Curiously, Pellegrino’s side have found away games more profitable than fixtures in Mendizorrotza: at home Alavés have won only twice in 10 games, with six draws and two defeats.
Pellegrino may make a few changes after the cup game to keep his side fresh and has the benefit of a full squad to choose from. Alavés have been finding it difficult to score but their defensive solidity has seen them lose just once in their last 17 games in all competitions.
AS player to watch: Marcos Llorente
The on-loan Real Madrid midfielder has been gaining plaudits for his performances this season and is one of the top ball-recovers in Europe. His role is fundamental to the Basque side.
Barcelona were made to suffer during their cup game against Atlético, who had Luis Enrique’s side on the ropes at time but lacked a little accuracy in front of goal to make their ascendancy tell. Enrique will not be taking Alavés lightly after the 1-2 defeat at Camp Nou, which remains one of only two defeats Barça have swallowed this season in LaLiga and their only home loss. Away from home Enrique’s side have played 11 games and lost one, at Celta, with seven wins and three draws. In their last two visits to Mendizorrotza, the game has ended goalless on both occasions.
AS player to watch: Leo Messi
The Argentinean has started the year in fine form and is the current Liga joint top-scorer with 16 goals.