Barcelona will be looking to keep up the pace with La Liga leaders Real Madrid, when they face off against Real Valladolid on Saturday evening.

Barcelona will be aiming to make it three wins in three matches in La Liga, when they travel to Estadio Jose Zorrilla to lock horns with Real Valladolid this weekend.

Valladolid seem to have done enough to stay in the Spanish top-flight for another year. The Pucela are currently 14th in the table, with 39 points from 35 matches, seven clear of the relegation zone. Since the restart last month, Sergio Gonzalez’s side have lost just two of their eight matches (W2 D4), with their latest game ending in a 2-1 defeat to Valencia.

Barcelona, on the other hand, are playing catch-up to current leaders Real Madrid. While they managed to reduce the gap to one point with a midweek win over Espanyol, Los Blancos stretched the lead back to four points with a win on Friday. With three games left to be played, there is absolutely no margin for error for the Catalans, if they are to successfully defend their title.

The reverse fixture, played at Camp Nou, had ended in a resounding 5-1 win for Barcelona. Lionel Messi netted a brace, while Clement Lenglet, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal were also on the scoresheet, with Kiko scoring the only goal for Valladolid. Ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Valladolid

Hatem Ben Arfa, who joined Real Valladolid in January, will be unavailable for the game against Barcelona this weekend. Along with the Frenchman, the hosts will also be without the services of Michel and key defender Mohammed Salisu. Oscar Plano will be back in contention, after missing the last game due to suspension.

Sergio is expected to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with former Barcelona man Jordi Masip, who has kept 11 clean sheets this term, starting between the sticks. Javi Moyano and Raul Garcia ought to start in the full-back slots on the right and left sides respectively, while Joaquin Fernandez and Kiko Olivas should line up at the heart of the defence.

Fede San Emeterio is a guaranteed starter in the midfield double pivot for the Pucela. He could be in for a change of partners though, with Ruben Alcaraz likely to return to the staring XI in place of Kike Perez. The onus of creating chances in the final third is likely to fall onto the shoulders of Oscar Plano, who ought to slot in as the No. 10.

The threat from the wide areas ought to come from Pablo Hervias and Toni Villa, although Victor Garcia, who scored in the previous match, will stake a claim for a starting berth. Spearheading the attack for Real Valladolid against the reigning champions ought to be top scorer Sergi Guardiola, who has six goals to his name so far this term.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Masip; Moyano, Olivas, Fernandez, Garcia; Alcaraz, San Emeterio; Hervias, Plano, Villa; Guardiola

Barcelona

Barcelona will be without five first-team players for the trip to Valladolid. Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele remain sidelined and have now been joined by Arthur Melo and Samuel Umtiti. Ansu Fati misses out due to suspension, after having been sent off in the derby against Espanyol last time out.

There could one or two changes made to the side that took the field last time out. There is no looking past the brilliant Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks, while the central defensive partnership of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet should remain intact as well.

Jordi Alba is a certainty at left-back, but Nelson Semedo could drop to the bench, with Sergi Roberto moving into the right-back slot, after having started the last two matches in central midfield.

Sergio Busquets should feature at the base of the three-man midfield for the Catalans and is likely to be flanked by the hard-working Ivan Rakitic and youngster Riqui Puig, who will look to provide the creative thrust.

Captain Lionel Messi is likely to operate in the hole behind the two strikers, who ought to be Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, who scored the only goal of the game against Espanyol last time out.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Puig; Messi; Suarez, Griezmann

Key Stats

  • Barcelona are the team Real Valladolid have suffered the most home defeats to in La Liga history, losing 21 of their 43 such meetings (W12 D10).
  • Real Valladolid have lost 11 of their last 12 La Liga games against Barcelona, conceding 2.8 goals per game on an average. Their only win in this run came back in March 2014, at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.
  • Barcelona have only won three of their last nine away games in La Liga (D4 L2). Having defeated Villarreal in their previous game on the road, the Catalans will be looking to record back-to-back away wins in La Liga for the first time under Quique Setien.
  • Real Valladolid have drawn 15 matches in La Liga this season. Their most in a single top-flight season is 16, which came in 1984/85.
  • Barcelona star Antoine Griezmann has scored four braces against Real Valladolid in La Liga, more than against any other opponent. Three of those were scored when he was at Real Sociedad, with the other coming for Atletico Madrid.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

A lot will be riding on Messi's shoulders when Barcelona take on Valladolid (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

A lot will be riding on Messi’s shoulders when Barcelona take on Valladolid (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

The last time these two teams met, it was the Lionel Messi show as the little magician scored two goals and assisted two more to lead Barcelona to a thumping victory. In ten matches against Valladolid till date, the 33-year-old has netted seven goals and assisted five more.

Messi has netted just once in his last six La Liga appearances and hasn’t found the back of the net in the previous two. While he has been involved heavily in terms of assists, the Argentine will be itching to get back to goalscoring ways given the lofty standards he sets for himself.

Prediction

Real Valladolid 0-2 Barcelona

Real Valladolid have lost just twice since the season resumed last month and are unbeaten in their last four games at home. They have conceded just 14 goals at home this season in the league. So, they will not make it easy for Barcelona, who themselves are unbeaten since the restart in June.

However, with Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann finding some form and the ever-present threat of Lionel Messi, the reigning champions should have just enough to come away with all three points and heap the pressure on rivals Real Madrid in the race for the title.

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