FC Barcelona (3rd, 62pts) vs Real Valladolid (16th, 27pts)
Competition/Round: 2020-21 La Liga, Matchday 29
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Neto (out), Gerard Piqué, Sergi Roberto (doubt)
Valladolid Outs & Doubts: Raúl García, Jota, Fabián Orellana, Luis Pérez, Kike Pérez, Míchel, Joaquín Fernández, Roberto Jiménez (out), Kiko Olivas, Pablo Hervías, Marcos de Sousa (doubt)
Date/Time: Monday, April 5, 2021, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm GMT/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Tuesday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Santiago Jaime Latre
VAR: Valentín Pizarro Gómez
How to watch on TV: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), Not Available (India), others
Following one of the longest international breaks in the history of mankind, club football is finally back for the home stretch of the European season, and Barcelona return to action with a home game against Real Valladolid at GSOE on Monday Night Fútbol.
The weekend’s results in La Liga have made this an incredibly important game for Barça: Atlético Madrid lost to Sevilla on Sunday to officially confirm their decline and make this a true title race. Real Madrid, currently in second place, are just three points behind with Barça in third just four away from the leaders.
A victory against Valladolid will put Barça just one point behind Atlético, which makes the Blaugrana’s job very simple: win the last nine games and they’re champions. In those nine games are direct matchups against the Madrid teams, including El Clásico next week which feels like one of the biggest in recent history, and then what could be a title decider in May against Atleti at Camp Nou.
Winning all nine games in a row seems like a tough job, but Barça are absolutely on fire in the league, unbeaten in 18 games with 12 wins in their last 13 matches. Ronald Koeman has found a formula and the team is efficient and ruthless up front, and their destruction of Real Sociedad two weeks ago gives plenty of hope that Barça can go from 14th in November to champions of Spain in what would be one of the most remarkable title runs in history.
Barça are giant favorites against a relegation candidate in Valladolid who will be missing half their squad thanks to injuries and a Covid outbreak, but this is the first game after the international break which — as proved around Europe this weekend — can be really difficult for teams like Barça who have a lot of internationals and not a lot of time for preparation.
Playing on Monday gave the team one more day to train together which could be a big help, but there is still reason to be concerned that Barça won’t be at their best in this one. But they need to find a way to win one way or another, because this is a chance to stamp their authority in the title race and set themselves up for eight La Liga finals over the next eight weeks. A great performance is always a nice bonus but this is all about the win.
Barcelona (3-4-3): Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet; Dest, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Messi, Dembélé, Griezmann
Valladolid (4-5-1): Masip; Janko, González, Sánchez, Olaza; Villa, Mesa, Alcaraz, Plano, Martínez; Guardiola
The first game after the international break is never not tricky, and Barça may find it tough for a while but they’ll get there in the end: 4-1 to the home team.
Oh, and one more thing to Ronald Koeman: DON’T PLAY FRENKIE. PLEASE.