Camp Nou, Barcelona
Sunday, September 2 2012, 21:30 GMT
After a heartbreaking defeat in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid, Barcelona will look to get back on track against Valencia at the Camp Nou and keep their perfect winning record in La Liga so far. It will not be an easy task, though, as Valencia are one of the best teams in the league and have already eked out a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first week of the season. Pellegrino seems to be carrying on the great work of his predecessor Unai Emery and has built a very good and efficient team at the Mestalla.
Tito Vilanova’s outfit will also be eager to hold on to the precious 5-point lead over Real Madrid that they managed in the first two weeks of the season; in a league as tightly contested as the La Liga, such advantage might very well turn out to be decisive in the end.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The blaugrana lost the first trophy of the season in midweek, but despite the defeat they will take some confidence from that match. The way Barcelona fought back and almost won despite playing most of the match with 10 men at the Santiago Bernabeu, of all places was rather admirable, and although there are no moral victories in football, Tito will surely be proud of his players’ effort in the second half of that match. With that in mind, the lineup shouldn’t be very different from the one that played at the Bernabeu.
Valdés will start as always, Jordi Alba should play on the left, with Mascherano and Piqué as center backs, especially with Puyol still recovering from the niggle picked up last week at Osasuna. Daniel Alves has an edema on this thigh and should be left out of this weekend’s match; after Adrian0′s shocking performance in midweek, it is likely that Montoya will be given the nod. In midfeld, there’s a good chance that Song might be given his debut, with Busquets getting a rare breather; Xavi might also be given a rest, with Fabregas taking his place. Iniesta should be a lock to start, in the match, where he will present the fans his award for best player playing in Europe. Up front, two of Alexis, Pedro and Tello will partner Messi, with the first two more likely to get the nod. Tito will stick to Barcelona’s traditional 4-3-3.
Barcelona will be looking to start the game strong and score early, fully aware of the threat posed by Valencia, who have been the third best side in Spain in the past few years. Scoring early could lead to a comfortable victory, while otherwise it could a very, very difficult match for the blaugrana.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdés; Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Martin Montoya; Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Andrés Iniesta; Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi
Los Ché started the season very well with a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, but last week’s 3-3 home draw against Deportivo must be considered a disappointing result, even if it was a very entertaining match with great football on display. For a team looking for their first win of the season, the Camp Nou is about the last place they’d want to visit, especially considering that Valencia have never found much success there over the years.
Pellegrino should field a 4-2-3-1 lineup, with an obvious emphasis on containing Barcelona’s impressive attack and catching the blaugrana off guard with quick and swift counters. Diego Alves will be the keeper, with João Pereira, Cissokho, Ruiz and Bernat making the backline, shielded by Gago and Tino Costa. Feghouli will play on the right and Guardado on the left, with Jonas taking playmaking duties. Soldado will be the lone striker, who will be relied upon to make the most of the little scoring chances the team is bound to create. Having Tino Costa on their side, Valencia will also look to get free kicks near the area, as Costa is arguably the best free kick taker in La Liga.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Diego Alves; João Pereira, Victor Ruiz, Cissokho, Bernat; Gago, Tino Costa; Feghouli, Jonas, Guardado; Soldado
Key Match Facts
- Andrés Iniesta will present his award for best player in the Europe to the crowd before the match.
- Valencia haven’t got a single point at Camp Nou ever since Pep Guardiola took over.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 5-1 in favor of Barcelona, with Messi scoring 4 goals.
Player To Watch Out For
Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona)
It could be none other than the newly voted best player in Europe for 2012. Fresh off winning his first ever really big individual award, Iniesta will be eager to prove why he is worthy of such distinction and lead his team to victory in front of the home crowd. Expect a great performance from the man from Albacete.
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia
Barcelona will be feeling the physical and phychological effects of their midweek efforts and drop their first points of the season against an inspired Valencia that will be deadly on the counter. Iniesta and Messi will score for the hosts, with Soldado getting a brace for Los Ché.