Friday, 24 April 2009

Preview : Valencia

Venue : Estadio Mestalla, Valencia

This week kamikaze kontiki was unable to do the regular preview so I (barca4life) will be filling in for him. I hope that I will be able to do half as well as he has done with these previews and hope that he is able to do these previews again soon.

On to the football then. Following Barca's mid-week 4-0 demolition of Sevilla the Blaugrana turns its attention to the Estadio Mestalla in what will undoubtedly be another tough clash on the road to glory this season. Longtime Barcelona fans may remember the 4-1 thrashing that Valencia handed to Barcelona at the Mestalla in the Champions League Semi-Final in the 1999/2000 season.

Puyol, Xavi and Guardiola were all part of that night for Barca while Angulo and Albelda are all of that Valencia team that remain in their current squad. Fast Foward 9 years and Guardiola now has the reins of a Barcelona squad, with Xavi and Puyol as key pieces, that are threatening to sweep all before them.

La Liga rolled on this week with the unusual spectacle of the mid-week round of games in which Barcelona came up against 3rd placed Sevilla at the Camp Nou, while Valencia took on 10th placed Real Betis at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz De Lopera (a venue at which Barcelona could only draw 2-2 earlier this season).

Barcelona swept aside the Rojiblancos 4-0 in another breathtaking display of fantasy football which appeared more suited to the FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer video games than a real match. What made the Blaugrana win all the more impressive was the absence of Captain Fantastic Carles Puyol and one Lionel Andres Messi.

In Messi's absence Iniesta did his best Messi impersonation, scoring a golazo and assisting in the other three goals, so much so that it led Samuel Etoo to declare "Andrés is the best player in the world". Valencia meanwhile put in a hard-working performance in Seville to edge Real Betis 2-1 in an even contest with their talisman David Villa grabbing both items.

Valencia have now won their last 5 games, winning all of their games played in the month of April in the process. This sequence that has seen them rise from 6th place to 4th place and in the process establish a 5 point gap between themselves and 5th placed Malaga.

Key to Valencia in this run has been David Villa who has notched 6 goals in his last 4 games (4 of them being penalties) and Juan Manuel Mata who has netted 4 goals in his last 5 games (including a goal in each of the first 4 games of this winning streak). This stretch has seen Valencia score 13 goals in 5 games and conceed 5.

Barcelona are also in magnificent form having won their last 7 games and like Valencia winning all of their games in April in the process. Following their 4-3 loss at Atletico Madrid, the Blaugrana have won all 7 of their games without conceeding a goal and scoring 18 goals in the process. Unlike Valencia however, who had 10 of their 13 goals scored by two players, the 18 goals for Barcelona have been spread around with Etoo getting 4, Messi scoring 3, and Henry, Iniesta, Xavi and Bojan netting 2 goals apiece.

The Blaugrana defence has been excellent with Victor Valdes, after the Sevilla game, having not conceeded a goal for 632 mins. He is now in 2nd place in Blaugrana history for the longest time without conceeding a goal. With his clean sheet against Sevilla he passed Andoni Zubizarreta (621 mins), Pedro Artola (619 mins) and Antoni Ramallets (569 mins). Valdes is now 2nd to only Miguel Reina (father of Liverpool's Jose Manuel Reina) who holds the record for most minutes without conceeding with a whopping 824 mins.

With their win against Sevilla, Barcelona also passed their previous record for their most wins in a 38 game season. They achived their previous record of 25 wins during the 90/91 season and repeated the feat again durng the 92/93, 93/94, 04/05 and 05/06 seasons. The record for the most wins ever in a league season is held by Sir Bobby Robson's Barcelona team team that won 28 games during 1996/1997 season (1996/1997 was a 42 game season) and Real Madrid during the 1987/88 season that also won 28 (1987/88 was a 38 game league season).

With the goals in the Sevilla game Barcelona also continued to extend the La Liga record it has set this season for the most consecutive games in which a team has scored to 31.

Villa vs Etoo
Silva vs Messi

This season Valencia's financial woes of 400 million pounds debt have taken most of the headlines. Their new CEO Javier Gomez admitted recently that Valencia may be forced to sell their prized assets, the two David's, Villa and Silva to stay afloat. As a result their two star players have been constantly linked with moves to Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Despite this, Villa and Silva have pledged their future to the club having both just signed new long term contracts at the beginning of this season. Villa has continued to bang in the goals for Valencia, tying his record for the most goals he has scored in a season in the process, with a remarkable 25 strikes 27 league games so far. Silva who had missed three months earlier this season, with an ankle injury, is back and has contributed 3 goals and a number of assists in the 16 league games that he has played this season.

Undoubtedly the story of this season for Barcelona has been the rejuvination of Samuel Etoo. At the end of last season, the Cameroon hitman seemed to be on his way out of Catalunya. He turned down offers to leave and forced his way back into Guardiola's first team and the rest is history. 27 goals in 30 games this season for Etoo has put him in the lead for the Pichichi and the battle of the two best strikers in La Liga and arguably the world undoubtedly make the game at the Mestalla one to watch.

The other story of the season in Barcelona has been the emergence of Leo Messi to undisputedly claim the title of the world's best player. A one-man wrecking crew, many have tried to stop Messi but nobody has been able to keep La Pulga from doing what he does best, terrorizing other team's defenders.

Valencia have tended to favour a 4-2-3-1 lineup this season with Villa playing the role of the lone striker aptly supported by Silva Mata and Pablo. They have a mounting crisis in the midfield with Albelda, Manuel Fernandes and Joaquin all out due to injury but they have a enough talent to still pose a problem for the Blaugrana.

Barcelona will want to limit the creativity of Villa and Silva and as a result may want to cut off the supply to the front men by playing with an extra defensive midfielder. As a result we may see two of Keita, Busquets and Toure starting in the middle of the park for Barca.

Up front we may see Henry get a rest as he has not started three games in a week many times this season. He has played just once in the Copa de Rey and got rests before the two champions league games against Sporting Lisbon and the 2nd leg against Basel as well missing the 1st leg game against Basel and the 2nd leg game against Shakhtar.

This could mean a chance for Bojan or Hleb to shine as Iniesta could drop back deeper in the midfield to allow Xavi some time off before the Chelsea game. Messi should return having rested midweek and we could also see Dani Alves get a much needed break with Puyol doing the duties on the right side of the defence.

Valencia 4-2-3-1 : Cesar, Maduro, Alexis, Albiol, Moretti, Edu, Baraja, Silva, Mata, Pablo, Villa

Barca 4-3-3 : Valdes, Puyol, Marquez, Pique, Abidal, Toure, Busquets, Iniesta, Hleb, Messi, Etoo

Valencia's record at the Mestalla this season has been very good winning 10 of the 16 games played and losing just 3 scoring 40 goals in the process and conceeding 24. Barcelona's away form however has been sublime winning 12 of their 15 away games (setting a new La Liga record for most consecutive away wins in one season in the process at 9) and losing just 2 scoring 34 goals and conceeding just 14.

In the past 4 years Barca have met Valencia at the Mestalla 5 times (4 in La Liga and once in the Copa del Rey) with Valencia winning 3 and Barcelona winning 2.

May 05 : Valencia 0 - 2 Barcelona
Feb 06 : Valencia 1 - 0 Barcelona
Feb 07 : Valencia 2 - 1 Barcelona
Dec 07 : Valencia 0 - 3 Barcelona
Mar 08 : Valencia 3 - 2 Barcelona

A tough away game for Barca with one eye on the Champions League Semi-Final with Chelsea, Barca may rest a few players and may need some of the players that have played less to step up. Valencia have scored 29 of their 60 goals in the last 30 minutes of matches this season, Barcelona's defence will therefore need to be alert for the entire 90 mins.

Prediction: Valencia 1 - Barcelona 2



Marc4barca said...

lol really now, u think hleb will start in an away game... don't think so. iniesta to play left wing and keita in middle(if henry is rested) and gaurdiola isn't going to play a midfield without xavi or ini against a big club so no rest for xavi. i agree to the alves resting and puyol playing right back and i think busquets will play instead of yaya for two reasons, yaya is 1yellow away from suspension and we want him for the real match and for a little rest. i don't see eto'o playing a full game as bojan may come in the 65th depending on the scoreline. 7 games without conceding wow i would like to say another clean sheet for us against valencia but i don't see it happening 1-3 is my prediction.

fcbee said...

Good first preview, barca4life, congrats!

Again... a crucial game. Winning would not only mean an extra three points and more pressure on Madrid, it would also mean less pressure on Sevilla for the game against Madrid because valencia is threatening their third place.

Valencia is having a good series the last month, Villa again in top form. Not easy at all. Thier coach said he is planning that Barcelona cannot play the game they're used to play, let's see what that will mean.

Hoping we can again win 0-1, like some of our last away games (valladolid, getafe).

Knives Out said...

Nice preview b4l. Though I really hope we can pull of a clean sheet. It will be a major ego boost for us.

In other news, Pepe has been banned for 10 matches:

groga said...

Nice read, man, thanks!

Byronic said...

Great article! I would really love to see Hleb and Bojan get a chance to shine. I really believe that Hleb has what it takes to fit in, just needs to be less nervous and more confident, which I really only think will come through the opportunity to be on the pitch.

I was happy with Hleb's performance last game but you could definitely see that he was trying too hard to impress.

I don't see any harm in giving Bojan the start with Henry on the bench, or perhaps make the sub early on in the game. It would be nice to see the kid start off the game and get into the flow. He needs some game time before the copa del rey.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Great Preview barca4life. I think i prefer your previews to mine :)

I really hope we can keep another clean-sheet. That would be a real confidence booster going into next weeks games against Chelski and the Classico.

barca4life said...

Thanks for all of the kind words everybody. Kamikaze, i have a great respect for your ability to do these previews. They are a great deal of work. I'm just keeping your space warm :)

kamikaze kontiki said...

"Longtime Barcelona fans may remember the 4-1 thrashing that Valencia handed to Barcelona at the Mestalla in the Champions League Semi-Final in the 1999/2000 season."

Yeah, thats the reason why we bought that idiot Gerard Lopez and also had a useless Mendieta hanging around for 2 years.

zlatanfan said...

holy cow, Zlatan just said he wants to play in Spain. Come to Barça, papa!

He is class.

BorisHenry said... for Henry fans

Marc4barca said...

zlatan fan... he didn't actually say he wanted to play in spain nor did he say he was leaving but it would be nice if we can get him but the 100mil price tag is definitely a no for the barca board of directors. me being a huge zlatan fan, i rate him as the best striker and i'm quite sad we won't be getting him unless that price tag drops to 30-40 million. so if not barca then he should stay at inter which is my favourite team behind barcelona and then liverpool.

Marc4barca said...

are we going to have a celebration party in the chatbox when we win the league. if so i wanna know what day and time lol i got beer.

Anonymous said...

Why dont henry do barca fks?

kamikaze kontiki said...

Anyone else feeling nervous, I mean really, really nervous. This is going to be a tough game, much harder than the Sevilla one. I don't think this one will be as one-sided.

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