What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona vs Valencia
When: Saturday 1st February, 2014, at 15:00 UK Time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Leading the Pack

Twenty one games into the 2013/14 league season and Barcelona are bossing the title race. The Blaugrana might have lost some of the hefty lead they commanded over eternal rivals Real Madrid, but Gerardo Martino’s side remain very much in control of their La Liga fate. But with the other capital club Atletico Madrid also level on points, there is no room for slip-ups for the reigning domestic champions.

Barcelona have had good results against Valencia in recent meetings, winning four and drawing two of their last six games against Los Che. Pleased with the team’s recent win over Levante in the Copa del Rey, Andres Iniesta hopes that the four-time Champions League winners will carry this run when they meet Valencia. 

“We have in mind that playing Valencia is always tricky. Although Valencia are different than in previous years, the team have to be serious and go for the win”, commented the 2010 FIFA World Cup winner.

Having won their last 25 home games in the league, Los Cules will fancy their chances against Valencia. Furthermore, the team have managed to keep clean sheets in five of the last seven games home games that pitted them against the 2004 league champions, in all competitions.

Horrible Run

More than half the season gone and Valencia are still out of the European qualifying berths for next season. Los Che are winless in their last five games in all competitions, with their last win dating back to 4th January as the side prevailed over smaller Valencian neighbours Levante. Winless away from home in La Liga since 3rd November, when they prevailed over Getafe, and with a good number of changes occurring at the side in the last few final days of the winter transfer window, they will need nothing short of a miracle to usurp, or even grab a point from the Blaugrana at their football cathedral.

The side have undergone some changes in the last few days, with the likes of Sergio Canales, Adil Rami, Helder Postiga and Andres Guardado leaving for Real Sociedad, AC Milan, Lazio and Bayer Leverkusen, respectively, while former Barcelona man Seydou Keita was brought in to reinforce the midfield.

All of Valencia’s last six visits to the Camp Nou have ended in disappointments for Los Che, losing on three occasions by a three-goal or more margin. In these games, Valencia only managed to score twice, and given the way things are going, they are not expected to change those numbers here.

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Recent form

Levante 1-4 Barcelona (22/01; Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 3-0 Malaga (26/01; La Liga)
Barcelona 5-1 Levante (29/01; Copa del Rey)

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Valencia (14/01; Copa del Rey)
Malaga 0-0 Valencia (17/01; La Liga)
Valencia 2-2 Espanyol (25/01; La Liga)

Key absences

Barcelona: Neymar; Jonathan dos Santos

Valencia: Sofiane Feghouli

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The Argentine was not on the scoresheet in the team’s last game against Levante, but did score three in the corresponding game at the Mestalla earlier this season. Hampered by injury, this has not been Messi’s best term. But all the signs suggest that the forward will be as lethal as ever against Valencia.

Valencia – Jonas: With nine league goals, Jonas is Valencia’s top scorer this season. Against the Blaugrana’s susceptible defence, the striker might find holes to exploit them and make it a tough game for the opposition. That said, Barcelona still hold the least number of conceded goals at home this season with six strikes.

Match Prediction

At the Camp Nou, it promises to be yet another familiar result for Martino’s men. They are high-flying, having scored twelve goals in their last three games, and cannot afford to relax with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid waiting for them to slip-up. Barcelona 3-0 Valencia.

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