*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday
Competition/Round: 2018-19 La Liga, Matchday 22
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Sergio Busquets, Jean-Clair Todibo, Ousmane Dembélé, Samuel Umtiti, Jasper Cillessen, Rafinha (out)
Valencia Outs & Doubts: Gonçalo Guedes, José Gayà, Mouctar Diakhaby, Javier Jiménez (out)
Date/Time: Saturday, February 2, 2019, 6.30pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 5.30pm GMT (UK), 12.30pm ET, 9.30am PT (USA), 11pm IST (India)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
How to watch on TV: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), Eleven Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport 7 (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India), others
How to stream: beIN SPORTS CONNECT (USA & Canada), others
Welcome to February! If you’re a Barcelona fan, you’ve certainly looked at the schedule and thought “WOW! This is gonna be tough”, and you’re right. Barça have El Clásico in the Copa del Rey semi final and the start of the Champions League Round of 16, which will be away from home against Lyon. None of the games this month are easy, and we haven’t even talked about the league matches yet.
How about a little taste of red-hot Valencia to start the month? After a horrible start to the season, the Bats are where we thought they should have been all along: fighting for Europe. With just one loss in their last six and a healthier squad, they are once again frightening teams with their counter attacks, and their defense is more solid as of late.
They will cause a lot of problems to a Barça team that will most likely be heavily rotated by Ernesto Valverde. After spending a lot of energy against Sevilla and with the Madrid game just four days away, it’s impossible to expect the same starting XI to perform at the same level in three straight games. Making changes obviously hurts continuity, especially for a team that’s won eight in a row in the league, but it’s a necessary move. The squad is deep enough to do that now.
Make no mistake: this will be very tough, regardless of the Barça lineup. If the rotations work and we get a win, then the momentum is definitely on our side going into the Clásico. If we don’t win, then things get a little nervous. Beating Valencia is a necessity on so many different levels. Let’s do this, boys.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Murillo, Lenglet, Vermaelen; Aleñá, Vidal, Arthur; Messi, Boateng, Malcom
Valencia (4-4-2): Neto; Piccini, Gabriel, Garay, Lato; Soler, Parejo, Coquelin, Cheryshev; Rodrigo, Santi Mina
Because of the probable rotations and Valencia’s form, I’m extremely nervous about this one, but if Messi starts we get a narrow win: 2-1 Barça.