The Newsweek Countdown Match

Barcelona vs. Eibar: David Will Be the Winner Whatever Happens Against Goliath

In all likelihood, Barcelona will take another step toward the La Liga title on Saturday when Ernesto Valverde and his stars travel to La Liga’s underdog Eibar.

Barcelona is already seven points ahead in the title race and has never previously lost this fixture. An inevitability hangs over it, like so many that include Barca.

The dominance is such that Barcelona has won all seven meetings between these two teams, conceding only four goals and scoring 26. But Eibar’s mere presence in La Liga is already a victory for the small town in the Basque region. And the team's ascent continues.

Eibar is in its fourth season in the top tier of Spanish football, having won promotion to La Liga in 2014, the first time ever in the club’s 70-year history. The remarkable rise is made even clearer as the population of the town would fit into Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium three-and-a-half times over.

Through previous decades, Eibar has been regarded simply as Real Sociedad’s quiet neighbors, helping develop the likes of Xabi Alonso and David Silva into global superstars. But now Eibar is seven places above Sociedad in La Liga and has improved year on year, climbing the table—from 18th, to 14th, to 10th. 

This season is going even better. Eibar has won five of its past eight games, meaning José Luis Mendilibar’s team heads into Saturday’s game in great form. It's even more impressive in light of early season problems: The reverse fixture at the Camp Nou, which finished 6-1 to Barcelona, started a run of eight games without a win, including six defeats. There were fears that Eibar was on the verge of waking from this dream.

Eibar take on Lionel Messi Lionel Messi, center, at Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona, September 19, 2017, during a match against Eibar. The return fixture gives Eibar a chance to record its first victory over the Catalan giants. PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty

Eibar has been without star striker Pedro León for the whole of this season. Leon’s goals earned his team 17 points last season and Eibar suffered without the 31-year-old at the beginning of the campaign.

But there is a collective effort from the team now, with the likes of Charles Dias de Oliveira chipping in with six goals and Joan Jordán Moreno scoring five from midfield.

Mendilibar will hope that his team is facing Barcelona at the right time. The Catalan team will arrive to Eibar on Saturday on the back of two consecutive league draws, including a 0-0  stalemate at home to Getafe on Sunday. It was the first time since April 2017 that Barcelona failed to score in a La Liga game.

Valverde’s team will also have one eye on the Champions League. Two days after the match against Eibar, Barcelona travels to London to face Chelsea in the first leg of the last-16 tie against the Premier League champions. Eibar will hope complacency will be on its side.

But the quality Barcelona’s squad possesses is huge, with transfermarkt valuing it at $1.194 billion to Eibar's $70 million.

This is a true meeting of David and Goliath, but there's hope that the slingshot could earn a famous, first major victory in La Liga.