On the back of a 1-2 home defeat against Diego Martinez’ Granada, Barcelona turn their attention to Javi Gracia’s Valencia as they head to the Mestalla on Matchday 34 of La Liga Santander
Date and Kickoff Time: 2nd May; 21:00 CET
Competition: La Liga
Referee: Jose Sanchez
The last time Fútbol Club Barcelona and Valencia faced off, Ronald Koeman’s forces were held to a 2-2 draw in the Nou camp by virtue of a Maxiliano Gomes goal in the 69th minute. Los Murcielagos took the lead just before the half-hour mark, but Lionel Messi levelled via a header just before halftime, having missed from the penalty spot. Ronald Araujo put Barcelona into the lead early in the second half. However, a sloppy defensive action by the Garnet and Blue meant that points would be split.
Heading into Sunday night’s late game, both sides find themselves in starkly contrasting form. Over the course of the past four months, Barcelona have, without a shadow of a doubt, been La Liga’s best side, winning 46 points from a possible 54 in the period. The Catalans have emerged victorious in eight of their last eleven appearances, scoring 27 goals and conceding ten in the process. This is a run of form that has seen them win the Copa Del Rey, and should the Garnet and Blue beat Valencia, depending on the results of their counterparts, they might end the night either at the top of the table or third.
Valencia have been formless for quite some time now. Since January they have won and drawn five matches, losing six in the process. This form has seen them win 21 of the 52 available points, and when taking into consideration how callous their domestic campaign has been overall, this is a commendable return on points. Since the New Year they have scored 19 at 18.69xG and conceded 24 at 19.84xGA. Their Expected points would suggest that this defensive vulnerability has resulted in them winning two points less than they ideally should have, and Barcelona will be keen on taking advantage of these frailties.
What to expect from Valencia?
Valencia is a team with almost no objectives left this season. With 36 points this season, as realistically, they are too far away from the top 6 given the 14 point difference, and they seem safe enough from the relegation zone given their 6 point cushion. A defeat to Barcelona could get things a bit nervy, as Real Valladolid sitting two places below them, face Real Betis on the same day. The Bats will be optimistic for a draw, as a victory for Los Blanquivioletas would necessitate the same result against Barcelona.
With Javi Gracia in the dugout, Valencia have the ninth-lowest goal tally in the current campaign with 41. However, they also have La Liga’s seventh leakiest defence, with 48 goals conceded this season. The Valencians aren’t famed for their ball retention, but they keep a fair share of it, with 47.9% of the ball on average this season, the eighth-lowest number in the league. They generally aren’t a team to spend loads of time in the opponent’s penalty area, as evidenced by their 144 passes within 20 yards of the goal.
Offensively, Gracia’s forces average 3.7 shots on target per match, which then translates to scoring an average of 1.2 goals per game. These stats rank 10th and 11th in the league, respectively, which is just sufficient for this Valencia side. Despite being a midfielder, Carlos Soler leads the goals with eight from 27 appearances this season. Manu Vallejo and Maxi Gomez are joint second top scorers with five goals a piece, while in the creative department, Soler again leads the line with five assists to his name.
Their defence is undistinguished in the Spanish top flight. They average the 14th most goals conceded per match at 1.4 every 90 minutes, keeping just five clean sheets this term. In addition to this, the Valencians’ rough style of play has resulted in them conceding the 5th most penalties in the division with seven, most probably due to their woeful tackling.
Los Murcielagos generally line up in a 4-4-2. Their previous game against Barcelona served to show just how compact a unit they are. They are highly likely to play in much the same way, with a deep block, a host of long balls, but as was the case, and as has been Barcelona’s weakness this season, with frustrating saves from Jaume.
What to expect from Barcelona?
The defeat to Granada at home had a profound impact on the entirety of the fanbase. Data had shown that not a single side had overcome a 12 point deficit since La Liga’s inception to lead the table, let alone win the title. This was Barcelona’s grand chance to do so, and almost the entire team succumbed to the immense pressure placed upon them, conceding two goals from the only two attacks they faced. The trip to Valencia is a chance for retribution, one they mustn’t take lightly.
The Bats have kept more possession than the division’s top 6 only once in the second half of the season, against Atletico in their 2-1 loss at the Wanda Metropolitano. Given their approach against the “big sides” is constant, one should expect much of the same tomorrow.
In the back three, with the 3-5-2 being the most likely formation, Koeman should opt for a defensive trio of Clément Lenglet, Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza amid his lineup crises to consolidate the backline. In midfield, Koeman should start his strongest trio of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets and Pedri González, whilst in attack, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann should keep their place. The game needs several rotations, notably with Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto, all of whom deserve a spot on the bench following their performance last time out.
In terms of the playing style, the Catalans have every obligation to play with the same vigour as they did in the first half against Villarreal. An asphyxiating press, fine tuned passing as well as the players impeccable positioning have made for some mouthwatering ties against stern opposition this season. This is the best way to guarantee victory.
Captain and leader Carlos Soler is a treat to watch. His dynamism, ball control and mesmeric passing are some of the few bright spots for Valencia this term. Given the unfortunate departures of Rodrigo Moreno and former captain Dani Parejo, the Valencia number 8 has stepped up immensely for his side. He leads the way with 13 direct goal contributions, more than a third of what Los Murcielagos have scored this season. If Barcelona are to take all three points, then shutting him down is non-negotiable.
Previous games: LWWLW
Barcelona 1-2 Granada | La Liga
Villarreal 1-2 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 5-2 Getafe | La Liga
Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1-0 Real Valladolid | La Liga
Position in La Liga: 2nd
71 points in 33 games
21 wins, 5 draws and 6 losses
77 Goals Scored, 31 Goals Conceded
+46 Goal Difference
Previous Games: DLDDL
Valencia 1-1 Alaves | La Liga
Osasuna 3-1 Valencia | La Liga
Real Betis 2-2 Valencia | La Liga
Real Sociedad 2-2 Valencia | La Liga
Cadiz 2-1 Valencia | La Liga
Position in La Liga: 14th
36 points in 33 games
8 wins, 12 draws, 13 losses
41 goals scored, 48 goals conceded
-7 goal difference
Head to head record
Last 5 meetings:
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia | La Liga 2020/21
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 haven’t won back-to-back home games against Barcelona since 2007
- No team has scored more or won more as a visiting team against Valencia than Barcelona at the Mestalla.
- Barcelona are on their worst away run against Valencia(2D 1L) since 1992 (3D 2L)
- Valencia are currently on the longest ongoing unbeaten run in La Liga, with 4 draws and 4 wins in their last 8 matches.
Doubts: Thiery Correia
Correia • Paulista • Guillamon • Gaya
Wass • Soler • Rakic • Cheryshev
Guedes • Gomes
Coach: Javi Gracia
Injuries: Ansu Fati (knee), Philippe Coutinho (knee), Martin Braithwaite
Mingueza · Araujo · Lenglet
Dest · de Jong · Busquets · Ilaix · Alba
Messi · Griezmann
Coach: Ronald Koeman
A rather pessimistic outlook as Barcelona head to the Mestalla. Winless away to the Valencians since 2016 in a rather controversial 2-3 win on their ground, the Blaugrana have history firmly against them in this tie. However, the Catalans can take confidence from the fact that each of their title-chasing counterparts have scored at least twice in games against Valencia, and those too in wins. The league title is in Barcelona’s hands, and theirs alone.
Barça Universal Prediction: Valencia 2-3 Barcelona