Saturday, 03/08/2014 16:00 local time
Referee: Hernández Hernández, Alejandro José
Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla
While the last week has been good in terms of league standings and points, Barcelona received confirmation from their talismanic captain, will be leaving the club at the end of the season. This is good and bad news at the same time.
Bad – because without Puyol Barcelona will not be the same again. And Pique, supposedly Barcelona main defensive tower will not have the ‘guardian angel’ and the youngsters will have an inspirational figure beside them. Without Puyol, the fighting spirit will be missing. Without Puyol, Barcelona cannot be as brave as they once were.
Good – with Puyol on their payroll, the club administration were reluctant to pursue a world class centre-back, with the hope that Puyol will shake off his injuries and return in full form. Someday. Now that the captain is departing, Barcelona will finally enter the market with determination to replace Puyol, no matter how expensive the replacements turn out to be. And hopefully, Barcelona will have an answer to their defensive woes.
Last time these two clubs met in La Liga, Barca played hosts and Valladolid were not shown much affection. The Catalan clun found the back of the net as many as 4 times with Alexis (2), Xavi and Neymar getting on the scoreboard. However, Valladolid made their intent clear as early as the 10th minute, as they drew first blood courtesy Javi Guerra.
In the absence of Lionel Messi, Neymar had an excellent outing – he was by far the best player on the pitch that night. Alexis Sanchez too played his heart out and was almost as good as Neymar, but the Brazilian brought into the game something extra. Surprisingly the third best player on the pitch was Javi Guerra. Unfortunately for him, his fine outing did not get his team anything.
This weekend, Valladolid will play hosts and they will hope and pray. Their home record is as dismal as it gets and are currently languishing in the relegation zone. Barcelona will be hoping for all three points from this match.
Team News And Tactical Brief
“We know it will be difficult, very difficult, but we have more options at home. It is essential to look at ourselves, take the few chances…and compete for 90 minutes,” Juan Ignacio Martinez.
Valladolid are a brave team. Unlike some of the heavy weights in Europe managed by ‘special’ managers, they don’t approach the game to defend till death – they are offensive, even if it is punching above their weight and more often than not, they draw first blood.
In the match against Barcelona, the Martinez will be facing issues with injuries – Heinz is still sidelined, while Alcatraz is suffering from a hamstring injury. Victor Perez is also a doubt having come down with a back injury. And former Barcelona academy player Jeffren too is uncertain because of a hamstring issue, although he has hardly played for Valladolid this season, except for 45 minutes against Elche, last month.
Martinez usually plays a 4-2-3-1 and at home he won’t tamper with the formation.
Diego Marino will resume his duties under the posts and defense will comprise Rukavina, Rueda, Mitrovic and Pena. The defensive trio of Rueda, Mitrovic and Pena has had a decent season although they are in the relegation zone. Mitrovic has been the most consistent and by far the best player for Valladolid this season.
In midfield, the pivot will comprise Rossi and Rubio. While the Italian Rossi is a young and upcoming player, Rubio is a seasoned professional, both have picked up 6 yellow cards this campaign and have a fairly his pass completion ratio (close to 80%). Rossi can also contribute to attack.
While Javi Guerra will lead the attack, the manager might have a problem with the players just behind him. Valdet Rama and Daniel Larsson are expected to start, but they have not had enough minutes under the belt this season. The absence of Victor Perez might just be the difference in the final third. Omar Ramos is the final piece in the jigsaw.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Marino (GK); Rukavina, Rueda, Mitrovic, Pena; Rossi, Rubio; Larsson, Ramos, Rama; Guerra.
Tata Martino may not lose his sleep over this match, but this match is important from the perspective that it will give Barcelona a chance to go to the top of the league, even if it is for a night, as Real Madrid doesn’t play till Sunday.
The Barcelona manager will be without Gerard Pique who has a calf injury, and Carles Puyol might not start after playing full 90 minutes against Almeria. Marc Bartra will certainly start alongside Mascherano, who played for Argentina in a goalless draw against Romania, in midweek. Alves and Alba will perform their usual duties.
In midfield, Barcelona may once again see the familiar trio of Iniesta, Busquets and Xavi. While a lot has been said and done about the trio, the fact remains that they still are by far one of the best midfield combinations in the world and should control the match against Valladolid with relative ease.
While there were a few doubts regarding Lionel Messi’s health, especially after he vomited in the match against Romania, the fears have been allayed and Leo will start alongside Neymar. While Alexis has been Martino’s favourite, Pedro’s outstanding display is Spain’s international friendly this midweek may just help him to make the cut.
Victor Valdes will play as the goalkeeper in one of his last few matches for Barcelona.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Victor Valdes (GK); Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Neymar, Messi, Pedro.
- Barcelona have won their last 8 matches against Valladolid in all competitions.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Barcelona’s last 6 games in La Liga.
- Barcelona have scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches against Valladolid in all competitions.
- Valladolid have failed to win 9 of their last 10 matches in La Liga.
Player To Watch Out For
Neymar (FC Barcelona)
While the Brazilian has had a great start, Gareth Bale has somewhat stole the thunder in the later part of the season. As the business end of the season approaches, Neymar will have to step up and justify his inflated cost. A hattrick for Brazil in midweek, might just be the precursor to a lot of explosion on the pitch. Stay tuned.
Valladolid 1-4 Barcelona
Valladolid will score. They scored against Barcelona at Camp Nou and they are highly likely to do so at home. However, the presence of Neymar and Messi in the final third will assure that Barcelona do not go home without scoring. And more so when the league is at stake.
Blast From The Past