Valencia vs Barcelona
Some of the best La Liga action is bound to be in the white hot atmosphere of the Mestalla this weekend, where Barcelona are the visitors.
The Valencia fans have long been some of the most passionate, hostile and impatient in European football, and when they make a noise it takes a cool head to play football as a visitor. But Barcelona, and captain Lionel Messi are the best in the business under intense pressure, and Quique Setien’s side will be ready for whatever the Los Che fans can throw at them.
Barcelona are still locked at the top of La Liga with Real Madrid after both sides have won two and drawn three of the last five games, and the latest La Liga 2020 are starting to entertain the prospect of a Los Blancos triumph.
So a calm performance and clinical efficiency will be needed to beat Albert Celades’ Valencia and stay in pole position. They should do it. Valencia are at 4.50 and the draw at 4.10 with Barcelona at 1.66 for this game.
It would be major La Liga 2020 news if the hosts were to take points off the champions, but with their impressive home form I wouldn’t rule it out.
The Mestalla is a fortress again
Los Che were shambolic in defeat to Real Mallorca last week as they went down 4-1 to the La Liga strugglers. They were 3-0 behind by half time in the match at Son Moix, and that was too big a mountain to climb in the second period. That means Valencia have won just one in four league matches and have drifted down to seventh in the table, and four points behind fourth placed Sevilla.
Celades’ aim is Champions League football and that’s still very much on, providing they keep up their home form. Valencia are unbeaten at the Mestalla this season, having won five and drawn five. But they’ll have to face the Blaugrana without some key players. Dani Parejo has six goals but is out suspended, while Cristiano Pucini is injured and Rodrigo and Ezequiel Garay are both doubtful.
A lot rests on the shoulders of top scorer Maxi Gomez, who will look to add to his seven league goals.
Setien settling in
Barca’s season hasn’t been flawless by any stretch of the imagination; despite having over 80 per cent possession they recently had to settle for a 2-2 draw against bottom club Espanyol in the Barcelona derby.
But after the Catalans had said goodbye to Ernesto Valverde, new coach Setien got off to a winning start against Granada thanks to Lionel Messi, who else? The Argentine scored the only goal of the game, his 14th of the campaign and 17th in 17 games in all competitions.
His form is crucial to the Catalans who will be without the injured Luis Suarez, who scored twice against Valencia earlier in the season, and Ousmane Dembele.
Messi was rested, along with other first-teamers, in last night’s Copa clash with minnows Ibiza, which almost ended in embarrassment until Antoine Griezmann scored a 94th minute winner.
In the 62 games played since 1993, Valencia have won 13 to Barca’s 32 and there have been 17 draws, and Barcelona have been particularly dominant over the past five years.
This fixture last season, at the Mestalla, was a 1-1 draw as Messi equalised with a spectacular long range effort after Ezequiel Garay had put the hosts ahead.
That meant Los Che have failed to beat Barcelona in the league since early 2014, and that was at the Camp Nou, and the Catalans are unbeaten in Valencia since 2007, winning five and drawing seven.
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