Barcelona will be hoping to keep pace with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Monday.
Just two fixtures remain for Matchday 29 of the 2020/21 La Liga season to come to an end. On Monday night, Barcelona will resume their push for the title post the international break when they play hosts to Real Valladolid at Camp Nou.
Barcelona were slow off the blocks under the tutelage of Ronald Koeman, who came under scrutiny in the first few months of his reign at Camp Nou. However, since the turn of the year, the Dutch manager has turned things around superbly, bar the blip in the UEFA Champions League against PSG. In La Liga, the Blaugrana have been on a tear, last losing a game way back in December – a run of 18 matches without defeat.
Real Valladolid, on the other hand, have struggled to a great extent in 2020/21, managing to win just five of their 28 league games till date. Such a poor record has unsurprisingly put them right in the thick of the relegation battle, with the Albivioletas currently three points clear of the drop zone in 16th. Sergio Gonzalez’s men, though, come into this game on the back of a four-game unbeaten run.
The reverse fixture, played at the Jose Zorrilla Stadium back in December, saw Barcelona cruise to a 3-0 win over Real Valladolid, with Clement Lenglet, Martin Braithwaite and Lionel Messi on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 4, 2021
Ronald Koeman has been handed a twin boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Real Valladolid. On Monday, the Barcelona manager will only be bereft of the services of three first-team players, with Neto (ankle), Philippe Coutinho (knee) and Ansu Fati (knee) still on the sidelines.
The good news, though, comes in the form of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto’s return to fitness. In fact, Roberto should be available for selection, with Pique also resuming training. However, ahead of next week’s El Clasico, it is being suggested that the veteran defender could be preserved by Koeman in a bid to start him in the best possible condition.
In addition, Frenkie de Jong could be rested and preserved at the same time as well, considering he is one booking away from being suspended. With the Dutchman unlikely to start, Ronald Araujo could come into the three-man central defensive unit, where he will partner Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet.
Barcelona should indeed line up in the 3-4-3 formation that has been the catalyst in their recent turnaround. In goal, there is no looking past Marc-Andre ter Stegen while in midfield, Pedri and Sergio Busquets pick themselves, seeing as de Jong might not be involved. As for the two wing-backs, Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba are automatic picks.
Alba and Dest will indeed be in charge of providing the width higher up the pitch, getting the freedom to express themselves in the final third without being bogged down a great deal by defensive duties. Finally, in attack, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi pick themselves.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet; Dest, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Dembele, Messi, Griezmann
Unlike his counterpart in the Barcelona dugout, Sergio Gonzalez has a number of pressing roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Camp Nou. On Monday, the Real Valladolid boss could have to make do without as many as nine first-team players.
Fabian Orellana is unavailable to take on Barcelona due to a one-match ban, accrued due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Apart from the 35-year-old, the likes of Roberto Jimenez, Raul Garcia, Kiko Olivas, Joaquin Fernandez, Luis Perez, Kike Perez, Pablo Hervias and Jota are all on the sidelines due to either injury or COVID-19 contraction.
With so many of his charges sidelined, Sergio Gonzalez’s selection becomes easier to a great extent, with Real Valladolid expected to be set up in a 3-4-1-2 formation in front of former Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip. Javi Sanchez, Bruno Gonzalez and Jawad El Yamiq will form the three-man central defensive unit, with Saidy Janko and Lucas Olaza being the two wing-backs.
In the middle of the park, the onus will be on Roque Mesa and Ruben Alcaraz to keep things tight and keep a lid on the output of Pedri. In turn, Oscar Plano will have the bulk of the creative duties to undertake, with Shon Weissman and Sergi Guardiola set to form the strike partnership for Real Valladolid against Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Masip; Sanchez, Gonzalez, El Yamiq; Janko, Alcaraz, Mesa, Olaza; Plano; Weissman, Guardiola
- Barcelona have won 13 of their last 14 games in La Liga versus Real Valladolid, including each of the last five, with the only exception being a 0-1 defeat away from home in March 2014.
- At home, Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 13 La Liga games against Real Valladolid (W10 D3), since being beaten 2-1 in November 1997.
- Barcelona have not been beaten in any of their last 18 games in La Liga (W15 D3), since a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cadiz in December 2020; this is their longest unbeaten run in the Spanish top-flight since April 2019 (23 games – W18 D5).
- Real Valladolid have won only one of their last 11 games in La Liga – a 2-1 victory over Getafe in March – although they have played out six draws during this run (L4).
- Real Valladolid have only kept three clean sheets in La Liga this season, the joint-fewest of any team, alongside Levante.
Player to Watch
In what is turning out to be a season of resurgence for Ousmane Dembele, he must keep performing at a high level, if Barcelona are to keep pace with Atletico Madrid in the title race in La Liga. Seeing as his Barcelona future is once again uncertain, albeit, for the good reasons, this is Dembele’s chance to make his game do the talking for him.
From a sporting perspective, the Frenchman brings that X-Factor to the table that no other player in the Barcelona squad possesses. If he manages to deliver the goods then it could be the perfect preparation for next week’s El Clasico, taking a lot of the pressure off of captain Lionel Messi in the big game. A key fixture, thus, for Dembele, this.
Barcelona 4-0 Real Valladolid
This should, for all intents and purposes, be as straightforward an outing as any for this Barcelona side. Currently in stunning form, the Catalan giants seem nigh on unstoppable and with Real Valladolid missing nearly a dozen players, the gulf in quality becomes even more apparent. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 4-0 win for Ronald Koeman & co.