FC Barcelona (9th, 12pts) vs Valencia CF (8th, 12pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 9
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Pedri, Ronald Araujo, Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite (out), Sergio Agüero, Alejandro Balde (doubt)
Valencia Outs & Doubts: Omar Alderete (out), Cristiano Piccini (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, October 17, 2021, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeira), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano
VAR: José Luis Munuera Montero
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others
Following a two-week international break, Barcelona are back in action to start a crucial week of fixtures at home. The next three games will be at the Greatest Stadium on Earth with full capacity allowed, and the first one is against Valencia.
The last time we saw Barça, they were thoroughly outplayed by defending champions Atlético Madrid in what was another clear example of why Ronald Koeman should no longer coach this team. But he’s still there and Joan Laporta apparently is his best friend now, so we might have to endure the torture of watching the Dutchman on the sideline for a little while.
But as Koeman himself said, coaches depend on results, and there is a possibility Barça will have three bad ones in a span of seven days. Valencia will prove a brutal challenge, Dynamo Kiev come to Camp Nou in one of the biggest Champions League games in recent Barça history, and then it’s El Clásico at the weekend against a free-scoring Real Madrid.
If Barça look as inept in those three games as they have all season, then Koeman’s continuity will be truly inexplicable. But he has promised a better team when all of the injured players return, and a big one is back as Sergio Agüero is finally available to play. We might see very little of El Kun on Sunday, but he is no doubt a huge addition to the attack.
Ansu Fati has had a few games under his belt now and is ready for a heavier workload, and both Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé are coming back sooner rather than later. There will be more talent available, so Koeman has no more excuses.
Valencia will prove a very tough challenge. Long-time Barça enemy José Bordalás has done an excellent job at Mestalla, and he seems to always find a way to frustrate Barça players and fans every time he faces the Blaugrana. Los Che are excellent defensively and their best attacking players are all finally healthy, so they are absolutely capable of facing Barça without any fear.
This is a must-win, but more importantly it’s a must-perform. It’s a huge week, and there must be some positive signs from the next three games. We all badly need it.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Coutinho, L. De Jong, Memphis
Valencia (4-4-2): Cillessen; Correia, Gabriel, Diakhaby, Gayà; Soler, Wass, Guillamón, Duro; Gómez, Guedes
Every Bordalás trip to Camp Nou is annoying and Barça never play well, and this has a draw written all over it: 1-1.