The damn covid-19 is hitting Elche hard and has left the squad and the coaching staff in the draw for the round of 16 tie match that will face Real Madrid tomorrow, Thursday (7:00 p.m.), at the Martinez Valero stadium.
The Elche club announced yesterday morning that the head coach, Francisco Rodríguez, had tested positive and was isolated at his home “in good health.” The franjiverde coach felt unwell after the match against Villarreal and the tests revealed that he was infected with covid. During this Tuesday it was also known that the players Javier “El Flaco” Pastore and Josema Sánchez had not come to train because they had been positive in the previous tests.
To them we must add Pablo Piatti, who missed last Sunday’s League match against Villarreal for the same reason; and goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who has been suffering from strong symptoms for more than a week.
The coaching staff is being one of the most affected. In addition to Francisco, assistant coach Jaime Ramos also tested positive prior to the match against Villarreal, while physical trainer Sergio Pardo is in hospital.
None of them will be able to be on the bench tomorrow. At least, the assistant José Ortega, who was also unable to be on the pitch last Sunday, having to serve the first of the two game suspensions for his expulsion against Espanyol, will be able to lead the team as it is the Copa del Rey. Against Villarreal it had to be done by the second physical trainer, Manolo Sempere, and the goalkeeping coach, Miguel Escalona. Ortega, who on Sunday followed the match from a box with Francisco, will be in charge of offering the press conference today prior to the match and will serve his second league game ban on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Interestingly, Francisco had to return to the bench this Thursday, not being able to do so against Espanyol and Villarreal, because he was punished with two games after his expulsion against Granada. In both stakes, Elche got the victory. On this occasion, although for a different reason such as covid, the coach from Almería will not be able to lead the team either and hopes that the positive result against Real Madrid will be repeated. The franjiverde coach will offer the technical talk to his footballers by video-conference, he will follow the match on television from his home and will communicate with the bench by mobile phone.
As for the players, Elche will have four casualties due to covid: Pastore, Josema, Piatti and Kiko Casilla. Pedro Bigas will miss the match due to a psoas injury, while Benedetto no longer counts as he closed his exit to Boca Juniors.
These six footballers could be joined by Enzo Roco and Iván Marcone, who did not train with the group yesterday due to various muscular discomforts. The Chilean had to be replaced by Gonzalo Verdú against Villarreal when he relapsed during the warm-up and it is difficult for him to be available for tomorrow. The Argentine is more likely to recover in time.
The good news is the return of Fidel Chaves and Helibelton Palacios. The Huelva winger and the Colombian right-back could not play against Villarreal also due to covid, although yesterday they already tested negative.
At this time, Elche only has 16 professional footballers available and, if Roco and Marcone recover, they would have 18, so they should complete the call with homegrown players. Against Villarreal John Chetauya and Diego Bri were already on the bench.
Within the bad of the numerous absences, the group from Elche could put a very recognizable eleven in contention against Real Madrid and that would be very similar to that of the League. The improvement in qualifying and the good chance he has of accessing the quarterfinals of the Cup, allow Francisco to bet heavily on tomorrow’s match before Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu. The starting team could even be the same one that beat Villarreal with the entry of Axel Werner in goal for Edgar Badia, Helibelton Palacios on the right side for Barragán and Lucas Boyé at the top of the attack for Guido Carrillo.
Benedetto goes to collect his belongings and travels to Argentina
Darío “El Pipa” Benedetto went yesterday morning to the Martínez Valero stadium to collect his personal belongings, once his return to Boca Juniors was completed. The Argentine striker will travel to Argentina in the next few hours, where he expects a great reception. All the clubs involved: Olympique de Marseille, Boca and Elche were yesterday finishing completing all the documentation to make their departure official and put an end to the stage of “El Pipa” in the Elche team, through which he has passed with more Too bad, that star signing that excited the franjiverde fans in the middle of last August has not turned out. Benedetto has played 14 league games, most of them as a substitute, and two Cup games with Elche and scored two goals. The Argentine international will close his stage as a player in the Elche club, but will continue to be linked to the Franjiverde entity, of which he continues to be a shareholder as a partner of Christian Bragarnik through the company Score Club 2019 SL, which was the one that bought him the package majority of titles to José Sepulcre.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.