One of the classic La Liga clashes takes place this weekend; Valencia v Barcelona.
Though not a derby as such, it’s not far off, and it’s a match that virtually guarantees goals and moments of the highest quality.
Under Albert Celades, Valencia are still trying to get back to somewhere approaching their best form under Marcelino. They’ve been hit and miss, but are always a dangerous opponent for the Blaugrana.Though Barca lost to Los Che in last season’s Copa del Rey final, they’re unbeaten against them in LaLiga in the last seven and have only lost twice in the league to Valencia since 2007.
Indeed, it’s been 13 years since they last were defeated in a league match at Mestalla.
Let’s take a look at three things that might influence the outcome.
Barca’s captain is a threat to any team he plays against, but Valencia are one of his favourite league victims.
He already has 24 LaLiga goals against Los Che, as well as 10 assists, and given his current form, there’s every likelihood that he will add to those tallies.
Barca do rely on him for goals of course, but he is just as lethal as a provider.
Valencia’s wing backs
A lot of focus has always been placed on Barca’s wing backs of Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo/Sergi Roberto.
They are integral to the way in which the Blaugrana play, with former Valencia man, Alba’s connection with Lionel Messi a particularly useful weapon.
Without the left-back in situ over the last few weeks due to injury, Barca have often found it more difficult to find any goalscoring openings.
For all of their excellence, however, the hosts have two full-backs who, if not their equal, they certainly run their Barca counterparts close.
Jose Gaya and Jaume Costa were excellent against Real Madrid, shuttling back and forth throughout the 90 minutes and ensuring that Los Blancos often had to come through the centre to work any chances.
Should the same tactic be employed against Barca, a congested midfield is going to make life very difficult for the visitors.
Barca’s shaky defence
Barcelona have rarely kept a clean sheet this season, and that’s despite having one of the world’s best goalkeepers, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, playing out of his skin most weeks.
Defensively, the Blaugrana still suffer from a lack of pace in central defence, and that was exposed by Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.
There’s every reason to think that balls will be played in behind the visitors’ back four for Rodrigo and Kevin Gameiro to run onto, and who’s to say that they won’t profit from that tactic once again.