Barcelona wrapped up an exhilarating remontada to progress in the Copa del Rey and will face eternal rivals Real Madrid in a Clasico semi-final. Focusing on the league, Camp Nou will host the Mestalla faithful in what looks to be an exciting fixture on Saturday.
While Barcelona will look to continue their top form, Valencia aspire to change their fortunes by making it three wins from three.
Although Valencia happen to be Barcelona’s favourite opponents (they have scored the joint-most goals of any team against Valencia in La Liga history, a mammoth 314, via FOTMOB) they are a competitive side and the fixture looks different in reality than on paper.
So here are the three things Barcelona need to do to win against Valencia:
Prevent attacks through the flanks
Valencia employ a rigid 4-4-2 with speedy atttackers through the wings who attempt a lot of crosses. Rodrigo Moreno is performing exceedingly well as he hit a hat-trick against Getafe in the Copa semi-finals reaping the full benefits of the formation and numerous crosses. If Barcelona tighten the grip from the flanks by reducing full-back overlaps, Valencia will find it difficult to cross the ball and their attacking opportunities will grind to a halt.
Do not give away set-piece opportunities
With players who have exceptional quality in the air, Valencia are capable of winning the aerial duels and pose a serious threat at set pieces. With Dani Parejo as the creator, things could quickly get out of hand as Ezequiel Garay and Moukhtar Diakhaby will look to cause problems. Also with Sergio Busquets sidelined due to suspension, Barcelona have less backup in the air at corners and when defending set pieces. So Barcelona must make sure they concede less fouls and corners to curb Valencia’s chances of scoring.
Man-mark Parejo out of the game
Parejo is nothing less than an underrated superstar. The 29-year-old boasts exceptional playmaking qualities, has an eye for goal and helps out his defence much more than other A-list midfielders. He has been involved in five goals in the last seven games with three goals and two assists to his name. Valencia will look to Parejo for inspiration and that is where their strength lies. So isolating Parejo from the game will destabilise Valencia’s midfield and with players like Vidal, who is adept at man marking and interceptions, this is fully possible. Once Parejo is isolated, Barcelona’s chances of winning the game increase exponentially.