Table toppers Barcelona travel to the Mestalla looking to build on a 1-0 win over Grenada last time out under new manager Quique Setien, and extend their league at the top of La Liga.
Valencia v Barcelona – La Liga
Kick Off: 15:00
TV Channel: La Liga TV
Both sides came through their Copa Del Rey clashes unscathed, all be it being forced to work hard for victory, but their much changed squads allowed them to rest key players ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Setien’s first game in charge of Barcelona saw his side run out 1-0 winners over lowly Grenada at the Nou Camp thanks to a typically well-worked goal, which talismanic Argentine Lionel Messi finished to set his side on their way. They were made to work hard for their victory, and it took till deep in the second half for Barcelona to find their winner. It leaves Barcelona top of La Liga as they head into a new era with Setien in charge, and this will pose to be a tough ask of his new side.
Valencia are looking to bounce back from a shock defeat to Real Mallorca last weekend, where they were beaten in a resounding 4-1 defeat, courtesy of goals from Antonio Jose Raillo Arenas, Ante Budimir (2) and Daniel Rodriguez Vazquez. Although the talented Ferran Torres netted a consolation goal, and will be subsequently pushing for a start this weekend, they will be without the influential Dani Parejo in the middle, who has been their key man so far this season.
With six goals and two assists, only Maxi Gomez has more for Valencia this season in La Liga, whilst he averages 1.9 key passes per game and tops the passing charts for Valencia, highlighting how big a miss he will be. With key striker Rodrigo also expected to miss out, a defensive approach from Valencia will be no surprise, as they look to soak up the pressure from Barcelona and hit them on the counter, a tactic which has served them well in big matches in the Champions League this season, most notably in games against Chelsea and Ajax.
As a result, and as was the case for Barcelona, they will look to dictate the tempo and possession, and welcoming back Dutch startlet Frenkie De Jong to the midfield will be key to how Setien wants his players to play. Although they were made to work hard for their victory over Grenada, the eventual breakthrough was deserved, and there were signs of improvement to their leaky defence. One of Valverde’s flaws was his sides inability to defend, and they have conceded an usually high 23 goals in 20 games, but an xGa of 0.18 against Granada highlights quick improvements.
However, Setien’s open, attacking preference, coupled with high pressing and a high defensive line will leave them vulnerable, particularly to the likes of Torres and Denis Cheryshev’s ability to counter attack. Gerard Pique has at times been caught out as age begins to catch up with the Spanish centre half, and Valencia will look to exploit the spaces in behind left by the high positioning full backs.
As a result, when combining Barcelona’s open, expansive play, but undoubted attacking talent, with Valencia’s ability on the counter attack, it should make for an enthralling encounter on Saturday afternoon. The first meeting between the two sides was an exciting 5-2, and a high-scoring repeat on Saturday wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Dani Parejo is suspended, whilst Cristiano Piccini, Goncalo Guedes, Manu Vallejo and Rodrigo are expected to miss out for Valencia.
Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele remain out for Barcelona. Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Arthur could return.
Head to Head:
Valencia Wins – 6
Draws – 12
Barcelona Wins – 19
Valencia are unbeaten in their last 11 home matches
Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 9 La Liga matches
There have been over 2.5 goals in five of the last six La Liga away matches for Barcelona
Valencia: D W L L W
Barcelona: W D L W W
Barcelona come into the game understandably as favourites, and after a woeful defensive display against Mallorca last weekend, it is no surprise to see Valencia as big as 4/1. Barcelona have looked vulnerable at the back so far this season, and even though last weekend’s win over Grenada was promising, there are still warning signs for Setien as he settles into the Barcelona hot seat. The xGa of both sides is above one a game, whilst the tactical nature of both sides means that the game lends itself to goals.
Lionel Messi is in imperious form, and took the game by the scruff of the neck last weekend in Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez’s absence, whilst youngster Ansu Fati was given the opportunity to impress under Setien as he looks to select a youthful side mixed with experience. The return of De Jong will be key, and he adds dynamism to the midfield alongside the evergreen Sergio Busquets, so Barcelona will be confident of controlling the game.
As a result, two markets stand out in this game. Barcelona and both teams to score looks an appealing price at 15/8, whilst the appealing option of Over 3.5 goals at 11/8 can’t be ignored. If looking for a long shot, the correct score of 3-1 Barcelona at 12/1 is worth a go.