Sunday, February 3, 2013

Valencia CF vs FC Barcelona Match Preview

Valencia CF vs FC Barcelona Match Preview
Stadium: Mestalla
Date: 03.02.2013; 19:00 CET
22nd matchday, La Liga
Coaches: Ernesto Valverde and Tito Villanova

Valencia CF
Valencia CF is coming to this match after a hard fought 3-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna the past weekend. The match was supposed to be quite straightforward with Valencia CF struggling to break Deportivo, but ultimately winning cleanly and I didn't expect a repeat of the first match between these clubs which finished 3-3, but that is exactly what happened. We saw pretty much a repeat of the first match and it took Valencia CF over 90 minutes to win in stoppage time after Deportivo La Coruna were reduced to 10 men for all of the second half.

As hard fought as that victory was, it was ultimately deserved with Deportivo La Coruna only having few real chances overall, with both their goals coming from mistakes in Valencia's defense. After that match Valencia CF coach Ernesto Valverde gave the players a two day rest, but when they returned to training unsurprisingly they were practicing defense as something the coach stated needs to be improved.

The coach is right of course, as Valencia CF has conceded a lot of goals this season and the defense has been shaky, especially in some key matches where the dam has broken, like with Real Madrid for example, and earlier in the season against Malaga and Real Sociedad. Moreover than that have been the constant leaks in defense, especially in those tight matches where only one goal would have made the difference. In all but 4 matches Valencia CF has conceded goals though, and this has reflected negatively on the team's ability to win matches and ultimately win points. The team needs to improve in defense drastically and stop conceding goals as much as possible, at least against weaker teams who are barely able to score goals otherwise.

So hopefully the defense practice Ernesto Valverde has set up will help improve the defense and the team desperately needs to improve defensively before the Barcelona match, in order to avoid another embarrassing loss like it suffered against Real Madrid in the league. Much importance has also been put in the midfield and the coach has said that he hopes and likes Valencia CF to really bring the fight to Barcelona in the middle of the field.

As far as injuries go Roberto Soldado has said that he wants to play against FC Barcelona and he is likely going to be ready to do so, after suffering from a smaller injury he got in one of the matches against Real Madrid. David Albelda is also back in training and with the squad and is likely to be fully fit to play, should Valverde so choose so, other than that Jeremy Mathieu as you know is still injured, but you can expect him to return within 10 or so days, at least in more advanced training.

One big news is that Fernando Gago has been loaned out for the rest of the season to Argentine Club Atlético Vélez Sársfield, as Gago has been frozen out of the squad for the past 2 matches and was made clear he wasn't going to be counted upon by the coach.

Valencia CF squad:
Goalkeepers: Diego Alves, Guaita.
Defenders: Joao, Barragán, Ricardo Costa, Rami, Víctor Ruiz, Cissokho.
Midfielders: Albelda, Éver, Tino Costa, Bernat, Piatti, Guardado, Canales.
Forwards: Jonas, Valdez, Soldado.

Technical Details Valencia CF (probable setups): 
Formation: 4-2-3-1
Line-up: Diego; Pereira, Rami, R. Costa, Cissokho; Albelda, Tino Costa; Piatti, Banega, Guardado; Soldado.
Tactics: Medium defensive line, all round pressure, counterattacking, mixed passing, high pressing.

FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona is coming to this matches after an eventful and interesting match against Real Madrid in the first leg of the semi final in the Copa del Rey that finished in a 1-1 draw, with FC Barcelona being a bit wasteful in front of goal and unable to seal the match, being punished for their wastefulness towards the end when Real Madrid defender Varane scored a goal and equalized the score to allow Real Madrid to get away with a draw.

The first half was more close with both teams fighting in the middle of the park and having exchanges and chances in front of goal, but towards the end of the first half and in all of the second half Barcelona got into their rhythm and dominated possession, being more threatening and ultimately missing few good chances.

FC Barcelona has also been impeccable the whole season in the Spanish league with 19 wins and only one loss and one draw. That one loss was recently against Real Sociedad in the league, but it came only after Barcelona broke all records of going without a loss and it was due to happen sooner or later just out of fatigue if not from something else. 

So far FC Barcelona are looking like they are going to win the league and get back the title from Real Madrid and without much competition, as they are sitting in first place with 58 points, 11 more than the second ranked Atletico Madrid and 15 more than Real Madrid. So they are in prime position to win the Spanish league and unless incredible happens I can't see them missing out on such a big lead, though there are still quite a lot of matches to be played though.

The biggest problem for Barcelona is going to be the fact that they just played in the cup and even though their players are used to this high intensity, 50+ games per season tempo they are still going to be significantly fatigued and not at their best, so there lies Valencia's chance to get a good results, though Barcelona is still a great team even when not at 100% and its likely going to be a very difficult match in which a draw against FC Barcelona would be a positive result.

We know that David Villa is not pleased with his situation at Barcelona and there were reports that Arsenal wanted to sign him, possibly offering Barcelona as much as 15 million euros to get him, but Barcelona didn't want to sell him in the winter as they still count on him to provide cover, but its more than likely that he will be on his way out in the summer, with Juventus, Asrenal and others interested in his services.

Another players that will be leaving Barcelona at the summer is their goalkeeper Valdes as he wants to try another challenge and have a change of scenery, with Barcelona looking at Vicente Guaita as the possible replacement for him in what could become a player exchange with Valencia possible giving them Guaita and getting Villa back to the squad, although this has really low chances of happening at least from this distance.

FC Barcelona squad:
Valdés, Pinto, Montoya, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol, Alba, Adriano, Busquets, Song, Thiago, Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Pedro, Alexis, Villa and Messi.

Technical Details FC Barcelona (probable setups):
Formation: 4-3-3
Line-up: Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Fabregas, Messi, Sanchez.
Tactics: High defensive line, all round pressure, keep possession, mostly short circular passing, doubling up on the wings.

Results Prediction:
Valencia CF 1-1 FC Barcelona
The matches against FC Barcelona are always unpredictable as they can be very tight matches with few or none goals or very open with lots of goals and we've seen it go either way. Valencia CF most of the time plays good against Barcelona and have been very, very unfortunate with some of the referring calls denying Valencia CF from victories. I'm hopeful that tonight we won't be seeing any suspicious refereeing decisions and that we'll see a high quality match.

Barcelona is a bit weakened due to their mid week match against Real Madrid in the cup, and Valencia CF has been practicing their defending so I don't expect many goals, though its likely that both sides are going to score and I'm thinking it will probably end as 1-1.