Barcelona head to Spain’s third largest city on Saturday afternoon to face a Valencia side who have seen a turnaround in performance of late and will be eager to continue their climb up the La Liga table and put their nightmare 18 months behind them.
Barcelona’s league form this season has been rather patchy by their own lofty standards and the 24 time Spanish league champions come into the game sat fourth in La Liga after two shock defeats this campaign. Whilst the Barcelona odds in La Liga are still quite low, consistency is what is required if they’re to secure another Primera Division title.
Those defeats to Alaves in week 3 and Celta Vigo at the beginning of October was perhaps a wakeup call that there are more than just three teams in La Liga.
That said, they do come into the match after a 4-0 victory over Deportivo in the league and a midweek Champions League win over former manager Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, again 4-0.
26 times Barcelona have found the back of the net in the league this season, that is four more than the next team Real Madrid. Luis Suarez shares the race for the golden boot with Atletico’s Antoine Greizmann on six and Barce players make up four of the top seven players on the scoring charts making Barce a very real threat up top.
It has been a long time since we have seen Valencia playing to their full credentials. At their peak they were one of Europe’s top sides regularly competing in the latter stages of the Champions League and challenging for titles.
Not so anymore after a couple of disastrous seasons has seen them exploring the lower reaches of mid table.
However, could a change be on the cards? Since dismissing head coach Pako Ayestaran in September and replacing him with the much-experienced Italian Cesare Prandelli, the Valencianistes have seen somewhat of a mini revival.
Three wins out of their last four including a 2-1 away at Sporting Gijon last time out has seen Valencia climb up to 14th in the table and away from the drop zone giving renewed vigor to the side.
Head to Head
It is actually Valencia who head into this match with the most recent strike mark on Barcelona after inflicting a 2-1 league defeat on Enrique’s side in April at the Nou Camp.
However, that did come after Barcelona thrashed Valencia 8-1 on aggregate in the Copa Del Rey in February of this year but Valencia did snatch a draw against them at home in La Liga prior to that in December.
Barcelona are rightly favourites but Valencia will not fear the Blaugrana especially at the hostile Mestalla. Home advantage could play a key role in this match and could prove a trickier test than first expected for Messi and Co.