18 April, 2015, 16.00 CET
Camp Nou, Barcelona
The game between FC Barcelona and Valencia at Camp Nou today promises to be a classic encounter as both the teams are looking in stunning form at the moment.
FC Barcelona enjoyed a brilliant victory over Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday as their place in the Semis of the Champions League looks all but secured. But, the Catalans lost two key points against Sevilla at Ramon Sanchez Pizuan on last weekend to give Real Madrid a chance to make a comeback and they will certainly look to secure all three points today.
Valancia, on the other hand, had no such troubles on the last match day as they won comfortably against Levante. Los Che are giving Atletico Madrid a run for their money for the third spot and they will certainly pose a serious challenge to the Catalans today.
Team News & Tactical Brief
FC Barcelona were ahead of Sevilla by 2 goals on last weekend but they allowed Unai Emreya s men to make a strong comeback and lost two key points. This draw has allowed Real Madrid to make a comeback and Luis Enrique would certainly not want the repeat against in-form Valencia today.
Luis Enriquea s men secured a highly impressive 3-1 away victory against Paris Saint Germain in the mid-week and the attacking trident of FC Barcelona, consisting of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, looked in great touch against the French champions. The attacking trio has consistently performed well in the new year but they will have to perform little better against Valencia as their duo of Xhkordan Mustafi and Nicolas Otamendi has performed exceptionally well in La Liga throughout this season.
Like their attack, the defence of FC Barcelona has also looked well settled in the new year. The combination of Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba has formed an excellent defeincive partnership and Luis Enrique is expected to stick with this combination for such a crucial tie against Valencia as Martin Montoya started against PSG but failed to impress his coach.
Meanwhile, in spite of their excellent run of form in 2015, there is a reason to worry for Luis Enrique. And that is his midfield. Andres Iniesta, though injured now, has looked out of form since last couple of months while Ivan Rakitic is no Xavi Hernandez.
Club captain Xavi Hernandez, who is set to replace injured Iniesta tonight, is 35 now and his tired legs are not dominating the games in the same manner anymore.
Meanwhile, defender Gerard Pique has said that FC Barcelona are very confident ahead of a key clash against Valencia.
“We are very confident on the back of the results we have been earning this season,” Pique said.
“We are aware of how difficult it is to have a chance in three different competitions. But we can’t have a rest this Saturday against Valencia. It is so hard to keep going, but it is a challenge we can face.
“We have all learned a little bit. We had a lead against Sevilla and then they pulled one back and we let the game slip away.”
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3)- Bravo; Dani Alves, Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Xavi; Luis Suarez, Leo Messi, Neymar.
Ever since their acquisition by the Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, Valencia have looked rejuvenated as they have lost just once in their last 18 games.
Los Che are just a point behind Atletico Madrid in the points table but the task ahead of them today is not easy at all. FC Barcelona have looked very dangerous at home in 2015 and Nuno Espirito Santoa s players will have to put in a great effort if they want to secure at least a point against Catalans in their own backyard.
On the injury front, Los Che duo Enzo Perez (thigh) and Pablo Piatti (hamstring) remain doubtful, while full-back Jose Luis Gaya has returned to full training following a hamstring problem but Nuno will not take any chances with the fitness of the youngster.
Meanwhile, Valencia midfielder Feghouli has urged his team-mates to give their everything against FC Barcelona Feghouli.
“It was important to win (over Levante) after we drew the last two games and now we’ve got another big game to think about,” Feghouli was quoted as telling Canal Plus.
“We must now concentrate on FC Barcelona because you can be up one minute and down the next.
“We are going there to win and we can do that as anything is possible in football.”
Predicted Starting XI (4-4-2)- Diego Alves; Cancelo, Mustafi, Otamendi, Vezo; Feghouli, Parejo, Fuego, Andre Gomes; Alcacer, Rodrigo
Players To Watch Out For
Leo Messi failed to score against PSG on the mid-week, which is a rare thing nowadays. But the little master is more than capable of changing the result of the game with a stroke of brilliance. And against such a top quality side like Valencia, Luis Enrique would be hoping for a game changing display from Leo Messi.
The young German defender has surprised everybody with his mature displays for Valencia as Los Che have found a reliable defensive unit which is the most important reason behind their success this season. The biggest strength of FC Barcelona is their attack and Mustafi will play a crucial role in stopping the trio of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
FC Barcelona 3-2 Valencia
Valencia are going to prove very tough opponents for FC Barcelona. But, looking at the current form of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Leo Messi, it looks highly unlikely that Nunoa s men would be able to avoid a defeat at Camp Nou tonight. Expect a high scoring entertainer between these two attacking sides.
Blast From The Past