They are both traditionally big clubs in Spain, but while FC Barcelona have gone from strength to strength to enjoy regular success at the top of the table, Valencia CF languishes in mid table obscurity in the La Liga. That however,will all be hurled out of the window, as they go into this Copa Del Rey semi final.
The first leg is set to be played at the Camp Nou, and FC Barcelona would be looking to take full advantage of that, as he tries to win the treble for the Catalan side. On the flip side, Gary Neville is under immense pressure with indifferent performances in the league, and a cup win may be a good way of salvaging his dented reputation in Spain.
Luis Enrique: The Conductor
With an immensely talented side at his disposal, Luis Enrique’s job as the FC Barcelona manager is to ensure that he finds the right way for his team to gel together, while also maintaining harmony among the players. With the MSN trio (Lionel MESSI, Luis SUAREZ, NEYMAR) at his disposal, the Catalans always look like they would pump four goals past any side in the world.
However, the one area of concern for FC Barcelona is that they must take good care of their backline, which has often been found wanting. Sergio Busquets would have to provide extra cover for Pique and Mascherano behind him, so as to cancel out Valencia CF’s attacking threat.
Gary Neville: The Vain Stag?
The former Manchester United captain’s first stint as a manager has so far not yielded much results, and it would be a real test for his struggling side to get back to the European spots from this position in the season. However, Gary Neville would be trying to tell his side that although they have been struggling in the league, their fortunes in the Copa Del Rey have been completely different.
A sturdy performance against FC Barcelona could give Los Che some hope in the second leg of the tie, which is set to be played at the Mestalla, where the Catalans were unable to win earlier in the season.
Luis Suarez vs Shokhdran Mustafi
The Uruguayan striker has been in the form of his life this season, and would be looking to increase his tally, as the matches progress. It would be crucial for FC Barcelona to get good lead before going to the Mestalla for the second leg of the tie. This is where Suarez, one of their prime goalgetters comes in. The wily Uruguayan wouhave his plate full though, with Shokhdran Mustafi marking from toe to toe. The German has been an important cog in Valencia FC’s machinery this season, and would be trying to stop Suarez at all costs.
Andres Iniesta vs Daniel Parejo
In the battle for midfield supremacy there is hardly any doubt about who is set to come out as the favourite. Andres Iniesta, along with Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are set to dominate FC Barcelona’s midfield. However, it would be interesting to see Iniesta come up against Parejo. The latter has a passing accuracy of 85.4 per cent, but he would have to be even more acurate against the Catalans. Parejo would most certainly have to double up on his defensive responsibilities, but he would also have to be alert to sniff out the chances for counter attack that Valencia CF get.
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Javier Mascherano vs Alvaro Negredo
Defence is not something that the Catalans are known for, and this is something that Los Che would be trying to take advantage of, during the match. With a big and strong striker like Alvaro Negredo in their ranks, Valencia CF have a good chance of bullying the FC Barcelona centrebacks. Negredo would especially be targetting the smaller of the two FC Barcelona defenders, who happens to be Javier Mascherano.
- The MSN trio can be deadly in the attacking third, and they can even sniff out the slimmest of chances that they get.
- Valencia CF need to be careful about not giving away silly fouls around their penalty area, as the Catalans have very good free kick takers in the form of Messi, Suarez, Neymar, and Rakitic.
- The FC Barcelona midfield has been as strong as ever, and they are expected to create a lot oc chances for their attacking trio.
- As FC Barcelona play the high line, they often try to play their opponents offside. However, most often than not, they are unsuccessful at this, and they end up allowing their opposition attack.
- Due to their ultra attacking game, the Catalans are often vulnerable to counter attacks, something which Los Che would definately be trying to do.
- FC Barcelona have perennially been weak in the air, and the only player who seems to be big and strong enough to win headers under pressure is Gerard Pique.
- The Los Che, much like their Catalan counterparts, are also good takers of direct free kicks, and would be looking to earn a few fouls around the FC Barcelona penalty area.
- One thing that Valencia CF are good at is sitting back in defence and snatching the ball from their opponents. This is definitely something that they would try to do against the Catalans.
- Going down by a goal is not a big deal for Valencia CF, as they have proved time and again that they can come back after conceding.
- Valencia CF’s tendency to concede silly fouls is something that could hurt them, as FC Barcelona have good free kick takers.
- Defending set pieces is also something that Los Che are not exactly good at, and the Catalans would be looking to take advantage of that.