On the back of an excruciatingly long international break, Barcelona hit the trail once again as they ready themselves to face Real Valladolid in La Liga Santander.
Date and Kickoff Time: 5th April; 20:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Liga
Referee: Santiago Jaime Latre
The last time Fútbol Club Barcelona and Real Valladolid faced off, Ronald Koeman’s side emerged victorious over their counterparts from Pucela thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, Martin Braithwaite and Clément Lenglet. It was one of the Catalans’ best performances on the road this season, both on the attacking end where they scored three goals, as well as defensively where Los Blanquivioletas could content themselves with a measly 0.17xG.
Heading into tomorrow night’s game, both sides find themselves in starkly contrasting form. In La Liga Santander, Barcelona are on the back of an 18 game unbeaten run, stretching back to early December when they lost to Cádiz CF away from home. Ever since the turn of the year, the Blaugrana have won 12 of their previous thirteen fixtures, a run that includes a victory over tomorrow night’s opponents. On the road, which is an area that is by no means their strong suit, they are on a run of ten away victories on the bounce.
Since January, the former champions have without a shadow of a doubt been La Liga’s best side. With 37 points from a possible 39, they have the highest points per game ratio. In this period Barcelona have scored a whopping 38 goals, conceding just nine, averaging a scoreline has been 0.7 to 2.9 per game; a substantive improvement from the 1 to 1.9 they had until December.
Sitting 16th in the table, and just outside the relegation zone, Los Pucelanos need anything but a defeat to keep their survival hopes alive. Their points tally makest it such that they need not necessarily win to remain safe, though Sergio Soriano’s men would certainly much rather obtain all three points. A victory here would grant them at the very least a three-point cushion over Eibar in 18th – who lost to Real Madrid –, and propel them a further 9 points away from Huesca at the foot of the table.
What to expect from Barcelona?
On the back of an exhilarating 6-1 victory in Real Sociedad’s backyard, Barcelona ready themselves to face another one of La Liga’s royals, this time in the form of Real Valladolid. This tie is expected to be comparatively less difficult than that which the Catalans played at Anoeta, but it carries with it its own set of difficulties.
Ronald Koeman will most certainly keep the same setup as before, this coming in the 3-5-2, with perhaps a pair of big changes to the eleven. Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong are a subject of controversy. Of course, it would be amazing to have both on the field, especially given their performances last time out against the same opposition, but the possibility of a suspension makes starting them a risky endeavour.
Koeman could start Riqui Puig a start over Frenkie, as his immense creativity and northward vision could create incalculable issues for the visitors. In place of Messi, Koeman could opt for Antoine Griezmann, who was in fine form over the international break, and he might just as easily go for Martin Braithwaite in Ousmane Dembélé’s place to partner up the Frenchman in the front two. Signing a new striker is inevitable this summer, but right now, Braithwaite, Griezmann and Dembele are what the club’s got.
In terms of the playing style, the Catalan giants might still continue with the same positional play as before, but they might perhaps press less. Since mid-February, Valladolid have been exceptionally poor at retaining the ball for long periods of time, averaging just under 5 passes before losing the ball. This, coupled with some decent pressing numbers on their side, makes this task a reasonably simple one for the former champions.
What to expect from Real Valladolid?
Still, in a zone of jaded familiarity in the bottom half of the Liga table, Real Valladolid have begun the second half of the campaign in a rather disparaging manner. Matters have been made significantly worse. That is because over the international break, six of their players were infected with the Coronavirus, meaning that they officially have eight players unable to feature either due to injury, suspension, or disease, with three others doubtful.
They kicked off the second half of the season with a defeat at the hands of Valencia at home and have from then on gone on to collect a measly nine points from a potential thirty. Such is their lack of luck that they were on the receiving end of a 1-3 thumping at home to Huesca, and in the final minutes of their tie against Sevilla just before the international break, goalkeeper Yassine Bono scored an equaliser to ensure that both sides would share the spoils.
As per expected statistics, the Blanquivioletas are the third least offensive unit in the division, at just 26.16 Expected Goals from 28 games, and the ninth worst-performing defence, at a whopping 38.2xGA. In contrast to their current position on the table at 16th, Valladolid are 18th on the log on expected points.
This poor defensive showing can easily be attributed to the fact that they are the league’s fourth-worst team in terms of their ball retention capabilities, as well as the fact they allow the sixth-most passes per game and around their penalty box. Since February, their PPDA has been twice their OPPDA, essentially meaning they allow the opposition twice as many passes before losing the ball than themselves.
Sergio Soriano’s men may well shape up in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 setup. This shape might morph later into somewhat of a 3-4-1-2 in possession. The common denominator in both formations here is width, and for this, they rely on the likes of Oscar Plano to provide it. As a team, they tend to attack down the left-wing, with 42% of their attacks being played down that flank, closely followed by the right at 36%. They are not truly one of La Liga’s possession heavy sides, as they average around 43% ball retention in games and with — just — a 72% pass success rate across the board.
For Sergi Guardiola, this season has been an utter disappointment. Last season, he was arguably Valladolid’s most productive player, with 8 goals and two assists to his name. This year, however, he seems to have lost his spark. He is currently underperforming his xG by 3.27, meaning his finishing has been below par, but if there is anyone to create a threat, especially in a team as bereft of players as Valladolid is now, then it’s him.
Previous games: WWDWW
Real Sociedad 1-6 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 4-1 Huesca | La Liga
PSG 1-1 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Osasuna 0-2 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla | La Copa del Rey
Position in La Liga
62 points in 28 games
18 wins, 5 draws and 4 losses
59 Goals Scored, 23 Goals Conceded
+38 Goal Difference
Previous Games: LDWDD
Real Valladolid 0-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Celta Vigo 1-1 Real Valladolid | La Liga
Real Valladolid 2-1 Getafe | La Liga
Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid | La Liga
Real Valladolid 1-1 Sevilla | La Liga
Position in La Liga
27 points in 28 games
5 wins, 12 draws, 11 losses
26 goals scored, 38 goals conceded
-12 goal difference
Head to head record
Last 5 meetings
Real Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona | La Liga 20/21
Real Valladolid 0-1 Barcelona | La Liga 19/20
Barcelona 5–1 Real Valladolid | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 1–0 Real Valladolid | La Liga, 18/19
Real Valladolid 0–1 Barcelona | La Liga, 18/19
- Barcelona are on a run of 18 games without defeat in La Liga.
- Real Valladolid are winless against Barcelona in their last 15 encounters in a row.
- Real Valladolid have not managed to keep a clean sheet against Real Sociedad in their last 15 meetings.
Team news and possible Line Ups
Injuries: Ansu Fati (knee), Philippe Coutinho (knee), Sergi Roberto (muscular), Gerard Piqué (knee)
Mingueza · Piqué · Lenglet
Dest · Pedri · Riqui Puig · Alba
Braithwaite · Griezmann
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Injuries: Raúl García, Joao Filipe, Luis Pérez, Kike Pérez, Michel, Joaquín Fernández, Roberto Jiménez
Suspension: Fabián Orellana
Nacho · Yamik · Gonzales · Hervías
Plano · Mesa • Alcaraz · Olaza
Guardiola · Weissman
Coach: Sergio Soriano
This match has the potential to be a rout should Barcelona want to make it so. Valladolid have a whopping eleven players out of this tie, and despite Barcelona’s conundrum with Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong, they have a good enough side to make the most of this situation.
Barça Universal Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Real Valladolid
Preview: Barcelona’s strongest XI against Real Madrid
The title race is well and truly wide open. With Atletico Madrid still leaking points and Real Madrid trying to cope up with the tight schedule the Champions League brings with it, Barcelona would hope to be the favourites.
Barcelona travels to Madrid to face a team missing some big names. Sergio Ramos, Rafael Varane, Eden Hazard and Daniel Carvajal all miss out on the decisive clash. Nevertheless, if Los Blancos‘ performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, El Clasico will be a battle to remember. Meanwhile, Barcelona will once again have the services of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The result on Saturday will count for so much in the title race. In this creme-de-la-creme of clashes, here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid.
Marc Andre ter Stegen is always the first name on the list for Ronald Koeman. At the Alfredo de Stefano, the German wall will don the gloves and aim to keep the Madrid attack at bay.
Gerard Pique finds himself back in the Squad, however, it seems unlikely he will be given a start considering lack of match fitness. The three-man defence system has worked wonders for the Catalans, and Koeman will not look to change the system. A trio of Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Clement Lenglet could possibly start on Saturday.
Oscar Mingueza has been rock solid and on a constant rise. With every passing game, the youngster’s confidence grows, and so does the performance. Meanwhile, Clement Lenglet had a tremendous game against Real Valladolid, hardly placing a foot wrong. The Frenchman finally looks to be hitting his stride. Ronald Araujo is fit and ready to start once again and will have to be the leader on the field on the night.
The midfield is where the game will be won or lost for Barcelona. The hosts boast of one of the most fearsome trios in midfield, who reiterated their greatness against Liverpool midweek.
Up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it will be crucial for Frenkie de Jong to start in midfield. The Dutchman is one of the best in the business in controlling the tempo of the midfield.
The No.21 will be accompanied by Barcelona’s veteran maestro Sergio Busquets. Busquets will account for so much of controlling the midfield. Moreover, his distribution and defensive contributions will be invaluable.
Pedri will complete the midfield alongside the others. The recently internationally capped Spaniard will have to be on the top of his game at the di Stefano. He will be the fulcrum of Barcelona’s creative outlet.
Sergino Dest did face stagnation in performance last month. In the last few games, however, there has been a resurgence. The USMNT fullback has been more lively than ever in attack and has been completing take-one for fun. It will be crucial for him to exploit the right-wing on the night.
Jordi Alba will unsurprisingly continue to start at left wing-back. With Real Madrid being weakened at right-back, Alba will have his chance on a platter to once again come up trumps.
Ousmane Dembele has often been Koeman’s go-to option as a central player in the new formation. Once again, a two-man forward line could see the Frenchman return to duties in the front line.
Lionel Messi had a relatively quiet game against Valladolid, his first one in 2021. However, he will look to step up on the biggest stage in El Clasico, as he always does. The Argentine has been at the peak of his powers this year, and he could inspire the side to another title with a great game tonight.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Antoine Griezmann, who recently welcomed his third child, will be more motivated than ever to return to his peak powers. The Frenchman undoubtedly has a celebration or two in store for the latest member of his family and will hunt for a chance to showcase it on Saturday.
Fransisco Trincao could come on for Ousmane Dembele late in the second half to bring in fresh legs. His intricate dribbling could prove invaluable on the night.
Ilaix Moriba could be utilized to ramp up the pressure in the midfield, while Riqui Puig is bound to get a few minutes as well.