Barcelona will hope to build on their impressive win against table-toppers Real Sociedad as they host Valencia at the Camp Nou for gameweek 14. Barça Universal brings the match preview of this mouth-watering clash.
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, 19th December 2020, 16:15 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Liga, Matchday 14
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez
Against all odds, Barcelona came away with all three points as they hosted then-league leaders Real Sociedad at Camp Nou for a mid-week fixture, part of gameweek 19. It was truly a tale of two halves as Barcelona hit the hammer on the nail in the first 45 minutes with a goal each from Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong.
However, they lost the plot in the second half, showing the fans the best and worst, both, they had to offer. Somehow, a masterclass from Pedri, Ronald Araujo, and Oscar Mingueza helped Barcelona rescue all three points and move up the leaderboard to 5th – six points adrift of top-of-the-table Atletico Madrid.
Despite a motivating win, Culés are concerned about the team given their inconsistent performances this season. Impressive wins have often followed catastrophic defeats for Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona. More so than ever as they tackle Valencia in the next game – a team they have a rich history with.
After a storm of a winter window, Valencia were expected to be in a much worse state than they are in right now. The Los Ches sit 12th with 14 points and a clean slate for goal difference. However, a loss against Barça could put them dangerously close to the relegation zone.
What to expect from Barcelona?
Against all odds, Barcelona have changed their team structure, which now looks like a 4-3-3. Frenkie de Jong has been deployed in a box-to-box capacity, while Sergio Busquets anchors the midfield. Koeman has used this for two games running now, gathering all six points, and there seems to be little to no reason for him to change it now.
Junior Firpo was allowed to miss the game against Real Sociedad on the occasion of the birth of his child, and is expected to be back in the squad for tomorrow’s encounter. That said, there is little to no reason for him to start, especially after Jordi Alba’s marvellous performance in midweek. Sergino Dest does not have competition, either, given Sergi Roberto’s injury, and will continue in the right-back role.
Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza’s brilliant performance should – ideally – give them a clean path for this game as well, but Koeman has a clear preference for Clement Lenglet, so it will not be surprising if the Frenchman displaces Mingueza in the heart of the defence.
Elsewhere, de Jong’s starting spot seems to be nailed on, but it will be interesting to see how Koeman uses him tomorrow. That said, Busquets was subbed off early in midweek, probably to keep him fresh for this encounter. Given his Man of the Match performance against La Real, Pedri could retain his spot in the triumvirate, while Philippe Coutinho should, ideally, start on the bench.
As for the attack, all three members of the frontline against Real Sociedad could get a go again against Valencia following their solid run of form. Konrad de la Fuente could be key as a substitute, here, as his pace can be used to give the tired Valencia legs a run for their money.
What to expect from Valencia?
Despite the major change in personnel that resulted from the fire-sale to cut costs, Valencia have not changed their structure, system, or the majority of their tactics. They are still the cut-throat counter-attacking side that turns into its best version against Barcelona. Tomorrow will be no different as they hope to bounce back to winning ways after a series of four games without one in La Liga.
Jaume Domenech will fill in at the goalkeeper position in the absence of Jasper Cillessen hoping to continue his impressive season. The Spanish shot-stopper averages the second highest saves per game with 3.5 and given how goalkeepers have been turning up against Barcelona this season, we should be ready for another prime Gianluigi Buffon-esque masterclass from Domenech.
In front of him, Mouctar Diakhaby and Gabriel Paulista will continue in the heart of the defence, while the rapid pairing of Daniel Wass and Jose Gaya provide width from the back.
Carlos Soler scored a hattrick of penalties against Real Madrid and will be hoping to be on the end of another giant-beating as he continues in the double pivot with Uros Racic. Kang-in Lee is a doubt for the game, which means Jason and Goncalo Guedes will continue on the flanks as wide midfielders, while Maximiliano Gomez and Manu Vallejo partner up as twin-strikers in their trademark 4-4-2.
Player to Watch
Carlos Soler is enjoying an impressive individual season even though his team his struggling immensely. So far, he scored five goals and set up three more for his teammates. Albeit, all of those five have come through the penalty spot, but given Barcelona’s momentary brain-farts at the back, he will be licking his lips.
Moreover, he has the ability to pull the strings in the midfield against Barcelona, especially to release Jason and Guedes as runners on the counter-attack. Alba and Dest will have to be particularly alert as any turnover in the feet of Soler means a potential long ball.
Previous games: WWLLW
Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad | La Liga
Barcelona 1-0 Levante | La Liga
Barcelona 0–3 Juventus | UEFA Champions League
Cadiz 2–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Ferencvárosi 0–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Position in La Liga
20 points in 12 games
6 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses
23 Goals Scored, 12 Goals Conceded
+11 Goal Difference
Previous games: WDDLD
Terrassa 2-4 Valencia | Copa del Rey
Valencia 2-2 Athletic Bilbao | La Liga
Eibar 0-0 Valencia | La Liga
Valencia 0-1 Atletico Madrid | La Liga
Deportivo Alaves 2-2 Valencia | La Liga
Position in La Liga
14 points in 13 games
3 wins, 5 draws, 5 losses
19 Goals Scored, 19 Goals Conceded
0 Goal Difference
Valencia 2-0 Barcelona | La Liga 2019/20
Barcelona 5-2 Valencia | La Liga 2019/20
Barcelona 1-2 Valencia | Copa del Rey Final 2018/19
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia | La Liga 2018/19
Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | La Liga 2018/19
- Barcelona have won just one game out of the last five times they have played Valencia.
- Barcelona have won five out of their last ten games against Valencia. (L2, D3)
- Barcelona have scored 19 goals against Valencia in their last ten games, but they have also conceded 12.
- Barcelona have not kept a clean sheet against Valencia for six games in a row, now. The last one came in the 2017/18 Copa del Rey semi final second leg when Barça won 2-0.
- Valencia have scored the opening goal in four of the last five games against Barcelona.
Injured: Gerard Pique (knee), Ansu Fati (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Ousmane Dembele (Strain)
Dest · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
de Jong · Busquets · Pedri
Griezmann · Messi · Braithwaite
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Injured: Toni Lato, Kevin Gameiro, Jasper Cillessen
Doubtful: Kang-in Lee, Maximiliano Gomez, Hugo Guillamon, Jose Luis Gaya
Wass · Paulista · Diakhaby · Gaya
Jason · Soler · Racic · Guedes
Vallejo · Gomez
Coach: Javi Garcia
Valencia are giant-beaters and never back down against Barcelona and Real Madrid, even if they are in a horrible position. That said, hosting Valencia has not been a huge problem for Barcelona most of the time, but this season seems to be different. Barcelona are unable to sustain their impressive run of form, and we might see this duel end in a stalemate.
Barça Universal Prediction: Barcelona 2-2 Valencia
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.