Following their last La Liga match of the season, a 2-2 draw away at Eibar, the pressure is certainly being felt in the Barcelona camp ahead of their matchup with Valencia on Saturday evening. The scars from the Blaugranes’ 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool still run deep, making a Copa del Rey win that much more necessary in order to begin the healing process. With that in mind, just how much of a threat do Valencia pose to a stuttering Barca side en route to the trophy?
Looking at recent form, Valencia have been going through a turbulent time. They have endured four defeats in the last seven matches, with losses in both their home and away legs against Arsenal in the Europa League semi-finals. Their other results include a narrow 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid and an embarrassing 1-0 loss to Eibar at home. While they did manage to pick themselves up in their last two games with a 3-1 win over Alaves and a 2-0 victory over Valladolid, it is still necessary to emphasise their failure to step up for the big occasion when facing strong opposition in recent games.
While racking up an impressive 16 goals in the above-mentioned games, Valencia still conceded 14, thus showing their vulnerability at the back. Before their last match against Valladolid, their last clean sheet in La Liga came during a 1-0 win over Sevilla on 31 March. This clearly shows ineffectiveness in their traditional 4-4-2 formation, which is a setup typically geared towards providing a team a balanced set of benefits in both offensive and defensive aspects of play.
Taking a look at key players, target man Rodrigo has lacked firepower this season, with only eight La Liga goals in total. He has, however, picked up his game in recent matches with three in his last three league games, and will still be one to watch come matchday.
Denis Cheryshev always has the potential to conjure up something special from the left wing with his consistent pace, aggressive jockeying and never-say-die attitude. While he has only enjoyed two goals and two assists this league season, these statistics do not tell the entire story. The young Russian retains his ability to change the flow of play, and will surely cause the Blaugranes full-backs plenty of headaches.
At the heart of Valencia’s midfield lies club captain Daniel Parejo, the undisputed anchor of the team. Astonishingly, the Spanish veteran overtook the club’s attackers in the Liga scoring charts this season, with nine goals and seven assists, thus proving himself to be a threat up front as well as in a supporting role. Valencia’s fate may rest squarely on Parejo’s shoulders on the night, as a strong performance by their skipper may make all the difference.
While Valencia may not seem so formidable as of late, it is still necessary to point out the decent season that they have enjoyed overall. Finishing their league campaign in fourth place, Valencia lost just seven matches, which is one less than Atletico Madrid, and conceded only a mere 35 goals, which is the second best defensive record in the league.
While they have clearly struggled against top opposition as of late, they did enjoy some impressive results earlier on in the season, including back-to-back 1-0 and 2-1 victories against Sevilla and Real Madrid respectively. Such victories, along with the fact that they remain undefeated against Barca this season, mean that Los Che have the potential to cause an upset depending on which Valencia side appears on the field.
While Valencia do seem vulnerable as of late, this is a match in which Barca cannot afford to lose concentration. While a chance to win the league and cup double is on the line, it is also imperative that Barca win back the hearts of so many frustrated fans after undergoing what was a stressful phase in the Blaugranes otherwise impressive season. This time around, the Copa del Rey trophy has an extra sense of importance.