Barcelona will look to continue their perfect start to life under Quique Setien when they take on Valencia at the Mestalla on Saturday.
La Liga football resumes this weekend with Matchday 21 of the 2019-20 season. The reigning champions, Barcelona will be in action on Saturday, when they make the trip to the Mestalla to lock horns with Valencia, hoping to make it three wins on the trot under Quique Setien.
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for Valencia under the tutelage of Albert Celades, who has overseen just 11 wins in 25 matches in-charge. Los Che’s recent form also reflects this, with just two wins in their last seven La Liga games, a run that has left them 7th on the table, although the tight nature of the standings means Atletico Madrid in third are just four points ahead.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have embarked on a new era following the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde in the aftermath of the semi-final exit in Supercopa de Espana. Quique Setien has since taken over at Camp Nou, winning each of the two games that he has taken charge of, although the Blaugrana have shown a cautious approach so far under him.
The reverse fixture, played at Camp Nou back in September, saw Barcelona cruise to a 5-2 win over Valencia, with Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez on target for the La Liga champions. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Albert Celades has a number of injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Barcelona. On Saturday, the Valencia manager will be without as many as three first-team players, with Cristiano Piccini (knee), Goncalo Guedes (ankle) and Manu Vallejo (ankle) all on the sidelines.
To make matters worse, captain Dani Parejo will miss out against Barcelona due to suspension after being sent off in the 4-1 defeat to RCD Mallorca last weekend. However, there is some positive update, with Rodrigo Moreno set to return to action after recovering from a knee injury.
The Spanish international has been linked with a move to Barcelona this week, meaning all eyes will be on him to see if his head is in the right place. Rodrigo should be named in the strike partnership alongside Kevin Gameiro, with Maxi Gomez making way.
In the middle of the park, Parejo’s suspension means Geoffrey Kondogbia and Francis Coquelin will man the central areas, looking to stifle Barcelona during their build-up play. Denis Cheryshev and Carlos Soler will be the wide midfielders, with the duo providing the creative impetus.
The full-backs, likely to be Daniel Wass and Jose Gaya, will have the onus on them to provide the width in the final third, but they will also need to remain diligent against their opposite numbers. Mouctar Diakhaby and Gabriel Paulista will partner up at the heart of the Valencia defence, with Jaume Domenech taking his place in goal ahead of former Barcelona man Jasper Cillessen.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Domenech; Wass, Paulista, Diakhaby, Gaya; Soler, Kondogbia, Coquelin, Cheryshev; Rodrigo, Gameiro
Like his counterpart in the Valencia dugout, Quique Setien has a few pressing injury issues to contend with. Ahead of his side’s latest fixture, the Barcelona manager will be without the services of three first-team players, with Luis Suarez being the major absentee.
The star striker is a long-term absentee after undergoing surgery on his troublesome knee. In his absence, Antoine Griezmann will continue to lead the line for Barcelona. Apart from Suarez, Barcelona are also without Ousmane Dembele and Neto, although the former is inching closer to his return.
Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were the players who were rested altogether in the Copa del Rey encounter in Ibiza earlier this week, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti did not feature. The quintet should, thus, return to the starting lineup when Barcelona take on Valencia.
Setien has implemented his trademark 3-5-2 formation in the two games so far and Barcelona will continue to get settled into the new system. Pique and Umtiti will likely have Clement Lenglet for company after he featured for the first time under Setien in the cup tie.
As a result, Sergi Roberto could move out to the right wing-back slot, having featured in the back three in the two games so far. On the opposite flank, there is no looking past Jordi Alba. Sergio Busquets will sit at the base of the midfield, with Frenkie de Jong moving to a more advanced role.
Arthur, who has appeared off the bench in each of the last two games, could be ready to return to the starting lineup, featuring as the second creative midfielder alongside de Jong. Upfront, Messi, who scored the only goal against Granada last week, will form the strike partnership with Griezmann.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): ter Stegen; Pique, Lenglet, Umtiti; Roberto, de Jong, Busquets, Arthur, Alba; Messi, Griezmann
- A goal fest guaranteed – Both teams have scored in each of the last five meetings, including Barcelona’s 5-2 win over Valencia in September’s reverse fixture at Camp Nou.
- Home comforts – Valencia are one of only three teams (the other two being Barcelona and Real Madrid) to have not lost a La Liga game at home this season (W5 D5).
- Barcelona have lost just one of their last 15 La Liga games (W11 D3), although that defeat did come on the road.
- Kevin Gameiro has scored six goals in 19 appearances against Barcelona in all competitions, three of those in his last three games against them.
- Antoine Griezmann is the only player to have scored a goal in La Liga, Champions League, Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey this season.
Player to Watch
It has been a tumultuous season to say the least for Rodrigo Moreno. For the longest time, the Spanish international has been a leading light for Valencia, but injuries and inconsistent form have meant that he has only managed to find the back of the net four times in 22 games so far, although the creative side of his game has shone.
To make matters rather concerning, Rodrigo is now being heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, meaning the background noise surrounding him will be all about Saturday’s visitors. Is this going to be an audition for Barcelona, or will the Spaniard condemn the Blaugrana to a defeat on the day? Only time will tell, but either way, this is a big game for the 28-year-old.
Valencia 1-1 Barcelona
Valencia are not in the best of forms heading into the game. Los Che have been beaten in two of their last three games, with goals starting to slowly dry up for them. Up next, Barcelona, who have hardly been beaten in La Liga lately, although their form on the road has not exactly been great.
On top of that, the players are still not completely familiar with Quique Setien’s style of play in the wake of a shift in formation. All things considered, the recent record of both teams scoring in this meeting in the last few years should continue, although Valencia’s decent home run means there might not be much to separate the two sides. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 1-1 draw.