Elche are back in LaLiga having emerged as the surprise victors in the delayed Segunda Division play-offs in August. Since winning promotion, they’ve changed coach and have finally started to add some new players in a hectic period for the club as they prepare for life back in the top flight after five years away. Read on for our 2020/21 Elche season preview.
Last Season – 6th (Segunda Division)
Having been in the Segunda B as recently as 2018, few would have picked Elche as likely promotion winners in a competitive Segunda Division. Under the guidance of Pacheta, they put together a solid campaign though, spending most of the season in the top half but just outside the play-off places.
Victory over Real Oviedo on the final match-day propelled them up to 6th place but they faced a nervous wait for fellow play-off hopefuls Fuenlabrada to play their final game against Depor which was controversially rearranged after a major coronavirus outbreak in the Fuenla camp. Depor won that match with a 95th minute penalty which gave Elche their shot in the play-offs and it was a chance they didn’t let up.
A series of solid defensive displays saw Elche keep clean sheets in all four of their play-off matches, winning both ties 1-0 on aggregate. Pere Milla’s 96th minute strike in the 2nd Leg against Girona was enough to win the Final and seal a second promotion in three years for Elche.
Elche Summer Transfers
Raúl Guti | from Zaragoza | €5m
Jeison Lucumí | from Tigres | FREE
Juan Sánchez Miño | from Independiente | FREE
Lucas Boyé | from Torino | LOAN
Juan Cruz | to Osasuna | €2.75m
Oscar Gil | to Espanyol | €500k
Tekio | to Volas | FREE
Ivan Sanchez | to Birmingham City | FREE
Jonathas | to Sharjah | FREE
(Transfers up to 21st September 2020.)
Coach – Jorge Almiron
Having guided Elche from the Segunda B to LaLiga in the space of three seasons, Pacheta was surprisingly relieved of his duties just two days after sealing promotion. Elche replaced him quickly with Jorge Almiron – a 49 year old Argentine whose most recent job was in charge of Saudi side Al–Shabab.
Almiron does have a wealth of coaching experience in South America and Mexico and guided unfancied Lanus to the Argentine Primera Division title in 2016. However this will be his first coaching role in Europe and it’s something of a baptism of fire as he takes charge of an Elche side that has had precious little time to prepare for life at this level with just five weeks separating the 2nd Leg of the Play-Off Final from their LaLiga opener against Real Sociedad.
Possible Elche Line Up 2020/21
Whoever came up via the play-offs was always going to be faced with an almost impossible task of trying to build a competitive squad in a matter of weeks for the immense challenge of life in LaLiga. Elche opted to release not just their coach, but also a host of players following their play-off Final victory and on the eve of the start of their season, it still feels as though they have plenty of recruitment to do.
Their starting eleven could look very different once the window shuts on 5th October but for now, a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation seems like their best bet.
Edgar Badia should provide some stability in goal and could be a very busy man in the opening few weeks. In front of him, centre-backs Gonzalo Verdú and Dani Calvo were also key in their promotion win but there will be new faces in the full-back roles with Juan Cruz and Oscar Gil having departed. If he can stay fit, Juan Sánchez Miño will be a strong signing at left-back but there is a clear shortage in the right-back position currently with youngster Gerard Barri looking the most viable option heading into the opening weekend.
In central midfield, there should be competition for places with the likes of Pere Milla, Víctor Rodríguez and Ramón Folch having featured during the promotion campaign while they’ll be looking to record signing Raúl Guti to provide some creativity.
In the final third there is also a clear need for fresh blood to come in. 40 year old forward Nino, who made his Elche debut in the 20th Century, was an important figure last season but it’s surely a big ask to expect him to do the business in the top flight at the age he is.
Colombian winger Jeison Lucumí has joined to reunite with his former coach and could go straight into the starting XI but this will be his first taste of European football. On the opposite flank, Fidel looks the most likely starter but again doubts exist as to whether he is a genuine top flight performer having spent most of his career in the second tier.
Key Man – Gonzalo Verdu
@gonzaloverdu Verdú: "Es un sueño jugar en Primera y, encima, con el @elchecf" https://t.co/bd7rDDUElC vía @informacion_es @FPElx @le7enda @pelucasverdes @PintoElx @elsgafarrons @FranjaPena @furiaelche @SentimientoF @ifema1976 @PenyaAltabix #ElcheCF
— jose antonio galvañ (@galvany30) September 11, 2020
With limited attacking options, Elche’s strength is going to need to lie in defence again you’d imagine if they are going to have any chance of staying up. They were immense at the back during the play-offs with Gonzalo Verdu marshalling things well and it’s really important for Elche that the 31 year old makes a successful transition to top flight football.
With captain Nino unlikely to start every match, Verdu is likely to skipper the team in many games this season and will have a key role to play. Few LaLiga strikers will be relishing the prospect of their tussles with the bruising defender, who has been booked a staggering 51 times in league football since joining Elche in 2017.
One to Watch – Raul Guti
After weeks of worrying inactivity in the transfer market, Elche went and surprised everyone by smashing their transfer record with the €5m signing of Raul Guti. The 23 year old lined up against Elche during the play-offs in August but was unable to open up Pacheta’s team for Real Zaragoza. This will be the attacking midfielder’s first taste of top flight football and having signed a five year deal at the Martinez Valero, Elche clearly believe he is a player who can make a difference for them this season and beyond.
Elche 2020/21 Targets
Survival is the only serious objective Elche have this season and even that feels like a very tall order. While it’s true they’ve been put at a significant disadvantage by those delayed play-offs, it also feels like they’ve shot themselves in the foot by getting rid of a coach who has laid the foundations.
They aren’t the first team to win promotion and dismiss their coach. Alaves did likewise by replacing José Bordalás with Mauricio Pellegrino in 2016 and went on to finish 9th and reach a cup final in their first season back in the top flight. Nobody is expecting that from Elche though and while they’ve made a couple of interesting signings, they still look very light – both in terms of squad depth and genuine quality in the first XI.
Unless they can add at least two or three more players capable of making a real difference before the window closes, they look like a team destined for an immediate return to the Segunda Division.
LLE Prediction: 20th
On the Road (but sadly still not at the game) in Elche today ahead of the Play-Off Final 1st Leg.
— LaLiga Expert (@LigaExpert) August 20, 2020
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