#SillyChe is here!
Barcelona – Valencia
Valencia return to Camp Nou after having emerged victorious from the last battle in the city of tapas and tourists. This time the battle, for Valencia, is one to ensure the third place and with that direct qualification to Chapions League. Financially as well as far as reputation is concerned, that is key to land the kind of players Peter Lim is said to have in mind.
Barcelona on their side are fighting off a late challenge from Real Madrid for the league title and cannot really afford too many slip ups. The Blaugranas won away at Paris St Germain in the midweek in what seemed an easier match than expected, but it still meant that players like Dani Alves and Luis Suárez are uncertain for today’s match. Iniesta though is definitely out.
One thing is certain though; There ain’t no David Luiz in black and white. Valencia will likely firstly look to establish a defensive stronghold led by El Kaiser Otamendi and Javi Fuego in each line. From that basis, the goal will be to harass Barcelona’s passers from the moment they receive the ball until they loose it and then mount a counter attack when a good opportunity presents itself.
For Valencia, Diego Alves will of course remain in goal and continue his particular duel with his counterpart, Claudio Bravo, for the Zamora title. No Valencia goalkeeper has been anywhere near that since Santiago Canizares. Today, Valencia will be dependent on a performance from the undervalued Brazilian.
The back four will be led by Otamendi and his right hand man, Mustafi. On each side many might be surprised that it is Barragán and Orban who will gear up to stop Neymar and Messi. Many would have said Joao Cancelo more than made his case against Levante, however keeping in mind the quality of the opposition, this is something quite different. Orban showed tenacity as always last time out and it might just be too early for José Luis Gayá who returned to training just this week after his thigh injury. If he was 100% we had seen him start.
In the midfield there are now surprises expected. With only four real contenders for a starting place and one of them still not fit to join the squad, it is pretty apparent that the trio will be Fuego, Parejo and Andre Gomes. The captain had a rather pleasant time against Levante, and will now have to up his game to contend with much stronger opposition. Andre’s ability to transform defense into attack will also be key, and especially how far out in the game Andre and Parejo will be able to maintain the highest level.
On the wings, Feghouli and Rodrigo both had a good match last weekend and are assumed to be allowed to continue at Camp Nou. Soso looked a different player than he has for the last couple of months and needs to build on that performance to create a viable threat on the right side. Valencia usually rely heavily on the left side with Gayá and Piatti to drive the majority of attacks (usually 55-60%), however with the two out and Cancelo in on the right back, the numbers turned completely around. Wheter the Barragán – Soso partnership can work as well, it remains to be seen.
Nuno is expected to continue to hand Paco Alcácer the starting striker role after his goal last weekend. When Paco is on a roll, he scores almost every match, so there’s really few reasons to not keep him in the mix. Except, there is one; Negredo has not looked better all season than he has coming on the two last games. The on loan City striker is a more complete striker than Paco and does offer more from a tactical point of view. His ability to receive and hold the ball could give the team the necessary respite.
Probable line ups:
FC Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suárez & Neymar
Valencia CF: Diego Alves, Barragán, Mustafi, Otamendi, Orban, Javi Fuego, Parejo, André Gomes, Feghouli, Rodrigo & Alcácer.
Referee: José Luis González González, from castellano-leonés.
Amadeo Salvo was crystal clear this week regarding Gayá’s future at the club; “He is staying, he is not going anywhere and not to Real Madrid.” Negotiations are set to continue after Champions League is secured.
Valencia have shown interest for two Zaragoza youngsters Jésus Vallejo and Sergio Gil, a defender and midfielder respectively. Both have been more or less regular starters for the Aragoneses this season.
Nuno has ordered the setting up of further barricades at Paterna to avoid that nosy journalists reveal his starting elevens every week. All training sessions are normally open for the first 15 minutes, while the tactical sessions are behind closed doors. So far those doors have been “see through”.
Joao Cancelo was the man of them moment after the Levante game. The club used the opportunity to make a video with questions from the fans to the player. In one of these he revealed that he will dedicate his first Valencia goal to his deceased mother. The youngster admitted his admiration for his parents and that he is missing his brothers.
Rodrigo de Paul was highlighted as the new clown in town by Cancelo in the same interview. “He always fools around, making jokes and pranks”. Valencia have long been looking for a funny guy after Michel left to win over the Chinese people.
Scandal “referee” Teixeira Vitienes has been put in the freezer for three weekends by the Spanish football authorities after his calamitous performance in Bilbao. Here’s a question for you: In which type of countries does he authorities deny any mistake was made, then proceed to put the culprit in freezers? Hopefully, Vitiens will come out of the freezer with a cooler head and a job suited more to his abilities. I heard Kim Jong-un was looking for a new minister of justice…..