Mestalla Stadium, Valencia
5th November, 2015
When Valencia CF attract more headlines than FC Barcelona ahead of a clash against their more illustrious rivals, and that too not just in Spain, but worldwide, you know that something big has happened. In this case, it is the appointment of Manchester United legend Gary Neville as their head coach.
In spite of all the camera flashes going off and all the arms shooting up into the air, ready to hurl a question at the Englishman, FC Barcelona continue their dominance over the La Liga as they go on their path to demolish one team after the other.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Gary Neville might have grabbed all the headlines for Valencia CF, but the fact of the matter is that the Englishman will not be giving his pep talk ahead of the match against the the Blaugarana. In fact, he begins his work one day after the match, which means whatever the result may be, the official blame would never fall directly on Neville.
The arrival of Neville does not change the fact that Valencia CF are struggling for form right now, and this could seriously dent their chances of getting the better of FC Barcelona on Saturday.
However, the fact that defender Shkodran Mustafi has been ruled out of the game with an injury is something that might not bode too well for Los Che. Another absentee in the Valencia defence is that of injured fullback Antonio Barragan, and this is something that might force assistant manager Phil Neville to slot Ruben Vezo at the right back position.
There’s even more problems in the Valencia defence with defender Joao Cancelo and holding midfielder Javi Fuego suspended for the match.
However, with a 4-3-3 formation, Los Che would be looking to hit Barcelona on the counter. Their main threat up front will be that of Paco Alcacer, who has already scored six goals this season. He will be flanked by Dutch winger Zakaria Bakkali and Algerian Sofiane Feghouli. Both these wingers would be looking to break away with pace, and send early crosses into the path of Alcacer or even find the darting runs of midfielder Daniel Parejo.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Jaume; Gaya, Abdennour, Santos, Vezo; Parejo, Perez, Gomez; Bakkali, Alcacer, Feghouli.
Luis Enrique’s side have been on fire this season, demolishing anyone who has come on their path. While attackers Neymar and Suarez have taken care of things when Lionel Messi was absent, the return of the Argentine superstar has been marked with absolute destruction of opposition defences.
The trio have scored a combined total of 30 goals so far in the La Liga, and that is only because Messi was injured for the initial part of the season. Had he been fit, that number might have been much higher than what it is right now.
Midfielder Sergi Roberto is doubtful for the game, and this could well prompt Enrique to start with the ever-so-familiar trio of Busquets in the holding role, and Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in the creative positions. This midfield trio often gets overlooked due to the exploits of the three South America attackers, but they have successfully formed one of the best midfields in the world not giving the opposition an inch.
The usual Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are set to play fullbacks for Barcelona, with Marc Bartra expected to join Gerard Pique in defence. There is also a chance that Argentina international Javier Mascherano might start beside Pique.
While the Barca lineup looks like it is considerably stronger than the Valencia one, the crowd at the Mestalla stadium is never to be underestimated, as they can create an absolute cauldron of an atmosphere. However, Barcelona are used to playing in such stadiums, and should make short work of Los Che.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Bartra, Pique, Alba; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic; Neymar, Suarez, Messi.
- Valencia CF have won only two of their last five matches.
- FC Barcelona are on a seven-match winning spree in all competitions.
- The Blaugarana have averaged just a little lower than five goals per match in their last five games in all competitions
- Los Che have kept four clean sheets in six home La Liga matches.
- FC Barcelona have lost just once in their last 17 matches against Valencia CF.
Players to watch out for
Daniel Parejo (Valencia CF)
In a season that has not been so great, Parejo has been a bit of a shining light for Valencia, becoming their second highest scorer in the league with four goals. He would be crucial to the team against a strong FC Barcelona side, to convert defence into attack, and maybe even score the all-important goal.
Luis Suarez (FC Barcelona)
The Uruguayan has been lethal this season, and this has been one of the key factors for their success. Not only has he scored plenty of goals, but he has also formed a formidable partnership up front with Neymar and Messi, in a front three that has ripped apart the opposing defenders.
Valencia FC 1-5 FC Barcelona
In spite of the menacing atmosphere at the Mestalla stadium, FC Barcelona are expected to rule the show with complete dominance over their hosts. Valencia CF have not shown any good form this season, and are not expected to improve that against a destructive Barca side.