Barcelona will aim to get one hand on the La Liga title when they travel to the Mendizorrotza Stadium to take on Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday.
The games continue to come thick and fast all across Europe, with the latest matchday in La Liga beginning on Tuesday. The defending champions will be on show on the day, as Deportivo Alaves play hosts to Barcelona at the Mendizorrotza Stadium, with the visitors potentially just one win away from winning the title again.
After a strong start to the season, wherein they were even looking to contend for a top four spot, Alaves have seen their form tumble dramatically. The Basque side have managed to win just four of the sixteen La Liga games they have played since the turn of the year, which has left them lagging in the race for a European spot.
Barcelona, on the other hand, can do very little wrong at the moment. Into the penultimate stage of the UEFA Champions League as well as the Copa del Rey final, their La Liga title coronation seems a mere formality as well, especially with Ernesto Valverde’s men currently on the longest unbeaten run across Europe, stretching it further in the 2-1 win over Real Soceidad.
The reverse fixture, played at Camp Nou on Matchday 1 of the season, saw Barcelona coast to a 3-0 win over Alaves, thanks to goals from Lionel Messi (two) and Philippe Coutinho. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Abelardo has a couple of fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Barcelona. On Tuesday, the Deportivo Alaves boss will definitely be without star attacker Burgui, who is out for the season due to a long-term knee injury.
As far as the game against Barcelona is concerned, Abelardo is sweating over the fitness of Guillermo Maripan and Takashi Inui, with both the players spraining their right ankles in the 2-2 draw with Real Valladolid this past weekend. The manager will take a late call on the duo, and it is likely that they will miss out on Tuesday.
If Maripan is unable to be fully fit, it is likely that Victor Laguardia will take his place at the heart of the Alaves defence, where he should partner Rodrigo Ely. Adrian Marin ought to be the left-back once again for the hosts, with Martin Aguirregabiria completing the defensive line that will provide cover to Fernando Pacheco.
Up ahead in midfield, Alaves captain Manu Garcia should have Darko Brasanac as his partner, with the duo primarily being tasked with stifling the Barcelona supply line before recycling the ball effectively. In the case that Inui is not fit enough to start, Diego Rolan is likely to start out on the right flank, with Jony a certain starter on the opposite side.
The strike partnership will see one forced change, with Jonathan Calleri suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Borja Baston should replace the Argentine, and will play off John Guidetti. But, the duo will need to be clinical, if they are to inspire Alaves to a shock win over Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pacheco; Aguirregabiria, Laguardia, Ely, Marin; Rolan, Brasanac, Garcia, Jony; Baston, Guidetti
Ernesto Valverde has no pressing concerns whatsoever surrounding his squad, with long-term absentee Rafinha Alcantara the only player who is unavailable for Barcelona. The manager though, has chosen to rest Ivan Rakitic for the trip to Alaves, with the Croat getting a well deserved night off.
In Rakitic’s absence, Carles Alena could be hopeful of getting some much-needed game time. While Sergio Busquets will replace Rakitic as the deepest lying midfielder for Barcelona, Alena could come into the side in place of Arthur, who is another player who looks in need of a rest. Arturo Vidal should keep his place in the middle of the park.
Up ahead in attack, Valverde might use this weekend’s game against Levante to rest Lionel Messi, with the Barcelona captain likely to start on Tuesday. The major change in the final third should see Philippe Coutinho replace Ousmane Dembele, with Luis Suarez leading the line for the visitors.
At the back, Samuel Umtiti’s inclusion is likely to happen against Levante as well, with Clement Lenglet partnering Gerard Pique at the heart of the Barcelona defence for the tricky trip to Alaves. There is no looking past Jordi Alba in the left-back slot, but on the opposite flank, Sergi Roberto should come into the side in place of Nelson Semedo.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Alena; Messi, Suarez, Coutinho
- Since being handed a shock 2-1 loss at Camp Nou in September 2016, Barcelona have won five successive games against Alaves, scoring 16 goals in the process.
- Alaves have been on a free fall since the turn of the year, winning just four of the 16 games they have played in 2019 (D6 L6).
- Barcelona are currently on the longest unbeaten run across Europe, having gone 21 games without being defeated (W15 D6).
- Barcelona have scored more goals from set-pieces than any other side in La Liga this season (22).
- Lionel Messi has the most goals (33) and the most number of assists (13) in the 2018-19 La Liga season.
Player to Watch
Vidal’s first season at Barcelona has been quite weird. The Chilean took some time to settle in, but has been a consistent performer whenever handed an opportunity, particularly in 2019. Now, the run-in, which comes with fixture congestion, gives him the chance to feature more regularly, and Vidal needs to grab his opportunity with both hands.
With Frenkie de Jong set to arrive at Barcelona in the summer, changes could be in order to make space for the talented Dutchman. But, if Vidal continues to perform as he has been doing lately, he might have nothing to fear about, and a dominant showing against Alaves will do his cause a world of good.
Deportivo Alaves 1-3 Barcelona
The match pits together two sides that are on the opposite side of the form spectrum. While Alaves have been struggling this year, Barcelona have been stretching their fantastic unbeaten run, even without playing at their optimum levels all throughout.
Ernesto Valverde’s men should take it easy for the most part on Tuesday as well, as they continue to conserve energy ahead of next week’s crunch UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool.
But, the visitors should still be too good for Alaves, and The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Barcelona, getting them to within a game of confirming their La Liga title triumph.