FC Barcelona are hoping to remain in the title race when they lock horns with Valladolid at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Tuesday.
FC Barcelona’s hopes of getting into the top four were tarnished by a Maxi Gomez goal in the second half, as they were held 2-2 by Valencia on the weekend. They are, however, pretty much in contention following two back to back wins over Real Sociedad and Levante earlier this month and are currently standing fifth in the league table, just four points behind fourth-placed Villarreal with a game in hand.
As far as the title race is concerned, Ronald Koeman’s men have been far from consistent this season. They are worryingly trailing table-toppers Atletico Madrid by eight points, with Los Colchoneros also having a game at hand. They could, however, bridge the gap to arch-rivals Real Madrid to just five points as Zinedine Zidane’s men have played an additional game.
Valladolid, on the other hand, have been one of the worst-performing teams in La Liga this season. They are dawdling in the drop zone with just 17 points in 14 matches heading into this midweek’s round of fixtures. One of their main problems this campaign has been the leaky defence that has conceded 21 goals.
There has been a slight improvement in their performances in recent weeks as 11 of their 17 points have come in the last six matches – the club has lost only one game during this stretch, with that too coming against table-toppers Atletico Madrid. It gives him a ray of hope for the hosts, who could be hoping to at least salvage a point from this game.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at their chances against the Blaugrana in this important clash in La Liga this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Valladolid head coach Sergio has recently adopted a more traditional 4-4-2 approach, with two banks of four providing cover for the goalkeeper Jordi Masip, who is the product of La Masia youth academy in Barcelona. He will be hoping for his first clean sheet of the campaign against his former team on Tuesday.
— Real Valladolid C.F. (@realvalladolid) December 21, 2020
Sergio, unfortunately, is missing out on the services of few of his key defenders in Joaquin Fernandez, Kiko Olivas and Saidy Janko. It should restrict his options, and it won’t be surprising to see if the Valladolid coach makes any defensive changes from the side that played Sevilla in midweek.
One thing is for certain – the hosts will look to operate narrowly in an attempt to provide minimal spaces in between the lines. Stopping them in transition could go a long way in disrupting the overall attacking game for FC Barcelona, who lack the services of a genuine number nine other than Martin Brathwaite.
So the second line of four could be equally important in providing further assistance for the two strikers upfront in Shon Weissmann and Marcos Andre. Toni Villa remains an additional attacking option for Roberto, although the 44-year-old should opt for a more defensive approach.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Masip; Hervias, Bruno, El Yamiq, Carnero; Orellana, Mesa, San Emeterio, Plano; Weissman, Marcos Andre
Barcelona have been boosted by the return of Ousmane Dembele to full training heading into this game. Although the Frenchman is unlikely to start this midweek, he could make a substitute appearance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his attacking teammate Ansu Fati while Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique also remain sidelined for the visiting team.
Dembele’s imminent return should put the pressure on the Philippe Coutinho, whose form has dried up recently. In fact, it won’t be surprising to see the Brazilian getting replaced by Pedri on the right flank this midweek, with Antoine Griezmann operating on the other end of the pitch.
It leaves Brathwaite as the leader of the Barca attack, starting ahead of Lionel Messi. The Dane will be hoping to rekindle his scoring form, especially knowing the fact that the Blaugrana could dive into the market for a new striker in the upcoming January transfer window.
Frenkie de Jong was struggling with a little niggle heading into the weekend’s game against Valencia. He did, however, make a substitute appearance and looked rather fit. The Dutchman, therefore, should force Koeman to sacrifice Coutinho in the attack, with the ex-Ajax star likely to renew his midfield partnership with Sergio Busquets at the base of Barca’s 4-2-3-1.
Koeman has another key decision to make in central defence, where Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet are competing for a spot alongside Ronald Araujo at the heart of the four-man backline. The latter is likely to get the nod ahead of the youngster who started in the last game.
Elsewhere in defence, Sergino Dest remains favourite to start due to lack of options at right-back with Jordi Alba starting on the opposite flank, thus completing the back four which will look to cover Marc Andre ter Stegen in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Pedri, Messi, Griezmann; Brathwaite.
- Real Valladolid have lost 12 of their last 13 La Liga games against Barcelona, last winning against them back in March 2014.
- At home, Real Valladolid have only won two of their last 14 LaLiga games against Barcelona, failing to score in the last two, and they have never failed to score in three in a row at home against them in the top-flight.
- Real Valladolid have won two of their last three home LaLiga games, as many as in their previous 11 at Jose Zorrilla in the competition.
- Barcelona are winless in their last four away LaLiga games, last going five without a win away from home in a single LaLiga season back in 2008 under Frank Rijkaard.
- After failing to score and assist in his five LaLiga appearances in October 2020, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored five goals in his last seven games in the competition.
Player to Watch
Lionel Messi made the headlines on the weekend with his goal which equalled Pele’s tally of 643 goals with a single club. The Brazilian legend was quick to congratulate the Barcelona superstar for his achievement.
This midweek, the Argentine international will have the opportunity to surpass Pele’s tally and break one of the most prized records in football. The forward has already been in an excellent run of form, notably scoring five goals in his last seven matches, including the winner in the crucial win over Levante last week.
Messi will once again look to spray his magic on the pitch as he looks to guide into a swift recovery during the second half of the campaign. And given the depleted nature of the Valladolid defence, the 33-year-old could be a smart bet on Tuesday.
Valladolid 1-2 Barcelona
Barcelona haven’t quite dominated an opposition properly for quite some time now, often securing narrow wins or failing to register a victory at all. It would be reasonable to expect pretty much the same this week, especially against a Valladolid team who have fared exceptionally well in recent weeks.
It is also fair to point out that the Spanish giants have lacked the spark in their attack this season. So the onus will once again be on Messi to deliver the goods and it won’t be surprising to see Koeman’s men once again churning out a narrow victory this midweek.