After kicking off the new season with an impressive victory, Barcelona will be hoping to make it two in two when they take on Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Barcelona will embark on a trip to the Estadio Jose Zorrilla this weekend, as they gear up take on newly-promoted side Real Valladolid in their second La Liga encounter of the new season.
Ernesto Valverde’s men began the new campaign in style, beating Deportivo Alaves 3-0 at home last Saturday, with club captain Lionel Messi leading the way with a double, along with a strike from Philippe Coutinho. And the manager will be hoping that his side carry forward the momentum from that victory into their upcoming fixture on Saturday night.
Real Valladolid returned to the Spanish top tier following their relegation back in 2013-14 via promotion playoffs. They marked their return to La Liga with a drab goalless draw against Girona last week. Interestingly, Los Pucelanos beat Barca 1-0 in that campaign and manager Sergio Gonzalez Soriano will go into the game hoping to cause a major upset.
Team News and Tactics
Having sold last season’s leading goalscorer Jaime Mata to Getafe this summer, Valladolid have recently brought in Enes Unal and Duje Cop on loan this week, along with winger Leonardo Suarez. All of them are likely to be involved in Saturday’s matchday squad. However, Ivi Gomez will miss out again with an Achilles injury.
Manager Sergio is likely to stick with the 4-3-3 formation that he used against Girona last week, which turned into more of a 4-5-1 when not in possession. His side will be set out to defend with everything they’ve got, and exploit any possibilities of a counter-attack against the champions.
Former Barcelona goalie Jordi Masip is a certainty between the sticks for the newly promoted side. The back four is unlikely to be changed either, with captain Javi Moyano at right-back and Nacho Martinez at left-back while Kiko Olivas and Fernando Calero should start in the heart of the defence. They may have managed to keep Girona out last week, but Barcelona’s attack will be a much sterner test.
Protection to the defence will be offered by the midfield trio of Ruben Alcaraz, Borja Fernandez and Anuar Mohamed, who will look to keep Barcelona’s midfielders under check and disrupt their passing rhythm.
Keko and Toni Villa are expected to retain their spots on the right and the left flanks respectively. The latter looked the most likely to do any damage in the final third in the previous game and will once again be key for the home team going forward. New signing Unal could be in line for a start as the centre-forward against the Catalans.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Masip; Moyano, Olivas, Calero, Martinez; Alcaraz, Fernandez, Anuar; Keko, Unal, Villa;
Midfielders Denis Suarez and Sergi Samper are set to miss out with injuries for the champions, while goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen is also a doubt, after picking up an injury during training.
Manager Valverde will set his team up in a 4-3-3 setup like last game, but there might be a couple of changes in the offing for the Catalans on Saturday. German international Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the undisputed choice under the crossbar for the champions.
Sergi Roberto, having started in the midfield last time out, should return to the right-back spot, meaning Nelson Semedo sits out. Jordi Alba had a solid game last weekend and will once again be a key outlet from the left-back slot. Gerard Pique will lead the defence once again, with Samuel Umtiti expected to continue alongside him, meaning Clement Lenglet has to wait for his debut.
In the middle of the park, Sergio Busquets will feature from the get go again as the deepest of the three midfielders. Philippe Coutinho should start, after having made a huge impact from the bench last week. Ivan Rakitic could be dropped after a rather rusty outing, paving way for Arturo Vidal to make his La Liga debut.
Captain Lionel Messi kicked off the new season in style last weekend, grabbing a double and will look to pierce through a stubborn Valladolid backline from the right-flank. Frenchman Ousmane Dembele seems to have done enough to secure his spot on the opposite wing. Through the middle, it will be striker Luis Suarez, who had a poor outing last time out.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Coutinho; Messi, Suarez, Dembele;
- Barcelona are undefeated in 37 of their last 38 matches in the Spanish first division.
- The Catalans became the second team to score 6000 goals in the La Liga last weekend. Only Real Madrid (6043) have scored more than Barca.
- Barcelona have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 4 away matches in the La Liga.
- Real Valladolid have lost five of their last six encounters against Barcelona. Their only win came in March 2014, at home.
- The Blaugrana have managed to score at least twice in 11 of their last 12 La Liga fixtures.
Player to watch
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Entering into his first full season with the La Liga champions, the Brazilian playmaker was surprisingly omitted from the starting XI by Valverde last weekend against Alaves. However, his introduction at half-time immediately added more creative spark to the Catalans’ forward play.
The former Liverpool man capped a fine display with a brilliantly taken goal that sealed the result for his side. He was clearly Barcelona’s second-best player after Messi on the night and should be in the starting lineup against Valladolid. He will be keen on proving a point to the manager and sealing his spot in the team with another enticing performance.
Real Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona
The newly promoted side were disciplined at the back in the last game against Girona and are likely to set up to frustrate the visitors. However, they offered very little in terms of attacking threat and that is unlikely to change when Barcelona come to town. The Catalans overcame a similar opponent in the form of Alaves last weekend though.
And the gulf in class and quality between the hosts and the reigning champions should shine through at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla this weekend. As a result, we at The Hard Tackle expect the Blaugrana to coast through to another comfortable victory on Saturday night.