Hassan Chamas

What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona (2nd; 62 points) versus Valencia (3rd; 47 points)
When: Sunday 14th March, 2010, at 19:00 CET
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Banned Duo

Going into La Liga’s most exciting weekend fixture, Barcelona take on third-placed Valencia, knowing that Josep Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dismissals last weekend will relegate the duo to a box seat rather than their intended places in the dugout and on the pitch.

Domestically, talk has centred over the past few weeks around Barcelona’s slight dip in form, a factor that perennial foes Real Madrid capitalised upon to go top of the league summit after an epic win over Sevilla. However, the men in white couldn’t break their Champions League jinx for the sixth season in a row, crashing out against Lyon earlier this week. With the morale down over in Madrid, Barcelona hold a golden opportunity to strike back at their detractors and reclaim the top of La Liga, even if just for a few hours, with a commanding display against Valencia.

Keeping Up

For their part, Valencia will have to carry on their consistent league form, which has seen them own third place for a time now. Against a less-than impressive Barcelona side, coach Unai Emery will no doubt instruct his men to bomb forward, in the hope of clinching a satisfactory result from the lion’s den that is the Camp Nou.

On the other hand, Valencia have not had the best of weeks either. Against Racing Santander last Monday, Los Che were left breathing a sigh of relief as Sergio Canales and the rest of his Racinguista team-mates could have come up with a better result. More so, Valencia barely escaped relatively unscathed in their midweek Europa League encounter with Werder Bremen, as defeat was avoided thanks to impressive showings from keeper Cesar Sanchez and Juan Mata, who equalised for 2004’s league champions after Torsen Frings’ opener. As such, Emery will be counting on a similar showing from the two former Real Madrid men, as well as his attacking cohort of David Villa, David Silva, Pablo Hernandez and Joaquin.

Recent form

VfB Stuttgart 1-1 Barcelona (Champions League)
Barcelona 2-1 Malaga (La Liga)
Almeria 2-2 Barcelona (La Liga)

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Valencia (La Liga)
Valencia 0-0 Racing Santander (La Liga)
Valencia 1-1 Werder Bremen (Europa League)


Key absences

Barcelona: Seydou Keita; Eric Abidal; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspension)

Valencia: Bruno (doubt); David Albelda (doubt); Jeremy Mathieu; David Navarro (suspension); Carlos Marchena (suspension)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: When all seemed to be lost, El Mesias came to his team’s rescue on two occasions in Barcelona’s last fixture against Almeria. The best of the Blaugrana’s attacking trident this season, Messi is the Primera’s Pichichi with 19 goals so far. Expect him to shine in Ibrahimovic’s absence.

Valencia – Cesar Sanchez: The former Real Madrid number one had a hard time on Thursday, making sure that Valencia only conceded a solitary goal. With his team now facing one of La Liga’s most daunting attacking powerhouses, he will have to be on top form should he want his team to come up with the goods.

Match prediction

Barcelona go into the match knowing that a win would earn them first place, pending Real Madrid’s result later in the evening. Pep Guardiola’s team will no doubt want to get the most out of their enemies’ midweek slip, and could very well do that against a side that has really failed to impress ever since being thrashed by Atletico Madrid a fortnight ago. Expect Los Cules to come out on top 2-1.


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