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La Liga Match Preview: FC Barcelona vs Valencia CF

Something tells me this score will not be repeated on Wednesday
Something tells me this score will not be repeated on Wednesday

In researching for this preview I came across a news article on the match. It too was a preview, and its headline was as follows: "Valencia title credentials get Barcelona test". Thinking about it on face value, one thing crosses my mind, and that is the typical English side of me thinking that La Liga is a two-horse race.

No doubt the end of the season will affirm that view, but as of right now, Valencia must be considered a contender. One of only two teams to have maintained a 100% record, Los Che are nothing short of the biggest test FC Barcelona may face this year. With El Clasico likely to be rescheduled for the New Year given Barcelona’s Club World Cup campaign, this Wednesday is a mammoth game at the top of La Liga.

A win would put Barcelona atop of the league table (Real Betis play on Thursday) and one could argue that once the Blaugrana claim the paramount of La Liga then they will remain there for the rest of the season. Of course, it is too early to speculate upon such things, but Barcelona do not drop points often, and even a one-point gap can seem insurmountable when it is the Blaugrana that you are chasing.

This was the case last season, as Barcelona reached top spot on the 29th of November last season, and never relinquished it again. No prizes for guessing the game in question...

On that night, the world witnessed a performance for the ages. Lionel Messi was pulling the strings, creating the chances as quickly as David Villa could finish them; even Jeffren and Bojan looked like world-class footballers. In short, it was the night that the Champions-elect put in a performance worthy of Champions.

Could Wednesday prove to be a similar case?

Basing it on previous results, it is possible. Villarreal were dispatched with consummate ease on the opening day of the season, Osasuna were unlucky to suffer the ignominy of an 8-0 defeat just a few days ago, and delving into pre-season, Napoli were also crushed by five goals. Three performances that fills every Culé with confidence heading into the Mestalla.

Equally, results also suggest that Wednesday’s match will be a difficult affair, with the two draws against Real Sociedad and AC Milan – or even the Supercopa matches with eternal rivals Real Madrid – showing that Barcelona are consistently inconsistent.

One day Barcelona will beat you by 100 goals, the next they will drop easy points by giving away cheap goals (Arsene Wenger’s favourite catch phrase). It is something that may be temporary, but there is no question that this recent occurrence has added fuel to the fire: Just how motivated is FC Barcelona to win?

Wednesday night, we shall see.

After correctly (luckily) predicting the return of the 3-4-3 formation on Saturday, I feel that Pep may venture on the wild-side and stick with the ultra-attacking approach. Valencia lack true width on both sides, and while Roberto Soldado is a fine striker, he but does not have the pace to truly threaten on the counter. Couple these together, and the conditions are ideal for the 3-4-3.

It enables greater control of possession, and this limits the time on the ball for Valencia. If Barcelona have the ball, Los Che do not, and therefore, Soldado will probably spend long periods of the game isolated. The creative players will either be wasted or sacrificed for defensive stability. The lack of true width on each wing will hurt Valencia, especially as the winger they do play operates on the right-hand side, and up against in-form Eric Abidal, his influence will be minimal. Maybe if Valencia utilised the left-hand side of their attack, and tried to overload the right-hand side, then the 3-4-3 may have been too risky. As it stands, I see no reason why the 3-4-3 is not an option.

Imagine the possession, and imagine the chance creation. Who cares if Valencia would be more dangerous on the counter, the 3-4-3 brings the possibility of 10-20 chances per game; and with Messi and Fabregas in such a rich vein of form, I would back FC Barcelona to outscore any team in World Football.

Guardiola should start with the same XI as Saturday, and considering the performance they put in, it should be in that 3-4-3. However, if necessary, the XI can shift back to the normal 4-3-3, with Dani Alves simply tucking back into defense, and either Cesc or Thiago moving forward to attack.

And not only will Barcelona ascend to the top with a victory, but providing he scores two, Lionel Messi will become the second-placed top scorer in FC Barcelona history, just ahead of Lazlo Kubala. Another hat-trick would also lift him to second in the all-time rankings for Barcelona scorers in La Liga.

Considering that Kubala had 11 years to build that record, Messi will have obliterated that benchmark in just seven years. Wednesday could be a milestone day for FC Barcelona, both for this season, and all-time.

Match Prediction: If Barca play with the 3-4-3, any score is possible, but thinking that Guardiola will venture on the safe side with a 4-3-3, I think a single-goal victory is the most likely outcome.

Also, a warm welcome to Al Benson, our new moderator. A long-time community member, I am looking forward to working with him.

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