Barcelona will be desperate to return to winning ways when they take on Valencia at the Mestalla in La Liga on Sunday.

Matchday 25 of the 2021/22 La Liga season continues on Sunday, with four matches on show. Barcelona will continue their campaign with a game on the road as they lock horns with Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday afternoon.

Valencia’s 2021/22 campaign has petered out just as the previous season had when they finished 13th in the table. Jose Bordalas’ arrival has not galvanized the team as much as the board would have wanted, with  Los Che currently sitting 12th in the standings. European qualification is not necessarily a distant dream, with Real Sociedad eight points clear of them in the sixth spot, although they have failed to win their last six league games.

On the other hand, Barcelona’s performances have improved definitively, with a strong end to the January transfer window boosting the morale at Camp Nou. But after clinching an important 4-2 win over Atletico Madrid, the Catalan giants have played out draws in their last two games, with the latest a 1-1 stalemate against Napoli in the UEFA Europa League.

Barcelona came from a goal down to beat Valencia 3-1 in the reverse fixture, with Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho on target, while Jose Gaya had scored the opener for  Los Che .

Team News & Tactics

Valencia

Jose Bordalas does not have any new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Barcelona. On Sunday, the Valencia manager will be bereft of the services of two first-team players due to fitness issues.

Gabriel Paulista (hamstring) and former Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen (calf) are on the sidelines and will not feature against the Catalan giants. Otherwise, Bordalas has a fully fit squad at his disposal, with Giorgi Mamardashvili lining up between the sticks for Valencia.

In front of Mamardashvili, Valencia will line up in Bordalas’s preferred 4-4-2 formation, with twin banks of four playing in unison off the ball. The objective of this setup is to close down the passing lanes, effectively forcing Barcelona wide and bringing the imposing defenders into the picture.

The two centre-backs in question will be Mouctar Diakhaby and January arrival Eray Comert. Dimitri Foulquier and Jose Gaya, linked with Barcelona lately , will be the two full-backs, with the duo providing creative outlets down their respective flanks.

Another key creative player for Valencia will be Carlos Soler. The Spanish international will aim to slice open the Barcelona defense at the earliest opportunity and look to keep a lid on Frenkie de Jong’s output. Former Barcelona midfielder Ilaix Moriba should pair up with Soler in the middle of the park.

Yunus Musah and Bryan Gil will be the two wide midfielders for Valencia, with the duo looking to be direct in their approach during the offensive phases. Hugo Duro and Goncalo Guedes will form the strike partnership for Valencia, leaving Maxi Gomez as an option off the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2):  Mamardashvili; Foulquier, Comert, Diakhaby, Gaya; Musah, Soler, Moriba, Gil; Guedes, Hard

Barcelona

Unlike his counterpart in the Valencia dugout, Xavi Hernandez has plenty of issues to contend with ahead of the trip to the Mestalla. The Barcelona manager will be missing as many as six first-team players due to injuries or suspension.

Dani Alves serves the second of his two-match ban after being sent off against Atletico Madrid earlier this month. Gerard Pique is also suspended following his dismissal of him against Espanyol last weekend. Clement Lenglet (hamstring), Samuel Umtiti (foot) and Ansu Fati (hamstring) are out injured, while Ronald Araujo (calf) and Memphis Depay (hamstring) are major doubts.

With a crucial match-up against Napoli on the horizon, Xavi is unlikely to risk Araujo, meaning Oscar Mingueza will come into the heart of the Barcelona defence, pairing up with Eric Garcia. Sergino Dest will take Mingueza’s vacated spot on the right flank, covering for the absent Alves, while former Valencia defender Jordi Alba is a certain starter at left-back.

The two Barcelona full-backs will shoulder a lot of creative responsibility, with the duo looking to stretch the Valencia defense while enabling the wide-attackers to drift in and create overloads. At the same time, Dest will also have an additional wide outlet for support in Adama Traore.

Traore’s directness will give Barcelona’s attacking play an added dimension, with the Spanish international pairing up with Ferran Torres and Gavi in ​​the final third. Gavi has been a revelation on the left flank lately, and he will replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the starting eleven. Ousmane Dembele, who received support from Xavi Hernandez after being booed by Barcelona fans , will be an option on the bench.

Finally, the output of the midfield unit will hold the key for Barcelona to bypass Valencia’s twin blocks of four smartly. Frenkie de Jong and Pedri will be the box-to-box midfielders, while Sergio Busquets will sit at the base of the midfield, looking to pull the strings for the Blaugrana .

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Mingueza, Eric Garcia, Alba; Frenkie de Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Traore, Torres, Gavi

Key Stats

  • Valencia have lost their last two La Liga games against Barcelona. They last lost three in a row against the Blaugrana in the competition in 2011, under Unai Emery. The Catalan giants have avoided defeat in 13 of their last 14 away La Liga games against Valencia (W6 D7) – their only loss in this period was at the Mestalla in January 2020 under Quique Setien (0-2).
  • Barcelona have scored 329 goals in 173 La Liga games against Valencia (1.9 on average), more than any other side have netted versus Valencia in the top-flight ever.
  • Valencia have failed to win their last three La Liga games at home (D2 L1), drawing the previous two. The last time they drew three or more games in a row at home in the competition was in October 2018 (5), under Marcelino Garcia Toral.
  • Barcelona have avoided defeat in their last eight La Liga games (W4 D4), scoring in each of those matches (15 goals on aggregate) – both their longest unbeaten and scoring runs in the competition this season.
  • Maxi Gomez has scored six goals in nine La Liga appearances against Barcelona. All six were with his right foot, in open play and from inside the box – his joint-best tally versus a single opponent in the competition, alongside Real Sociedad (six in eight games).

Player to Watch

Ferran Torres

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Ferran Torres has been largely impressive following his January move from Manchester City. But the Spanish international ended the midweek UEFA Europa League clash against Napoli in tears after a wasteful performance played its part in denying Barcelona a win.

Now set to come up against former club Valencia, Torres will be eager to make a meaningful impact on the game. The Spaniard will need to be clinical to get Barcelona back to winning ways. How he combines with fellow attackers Adama Traore and Gavi will determine the fate of the contest.

Prediction

Valencia 1-2 Barcelona

Valencia’s recent scoring record against Barcelona is impressive, as they have scored in each of their last 13 La Liga games versus the  Blaugrana (21 goals on aggregate). With the Catalan giants missing several centre-backs,  Los Che  will be in business in the final third. The hosts might even net the opening goal, putting further pressure on Barcelona.

But with Gavi returning to the starting eleven and Luuk de Jong an option off the bench to link up with Adama Traore, Barcelona will have enough quality to nick the result by the slenderest of margins. In turn, Jose Bordalas’ poor record against Barcelona will continue, stretching to only one win in 12 games as manager in all competitions versus the Catalan giants.

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