Barca Brilliance Is Back!Stats
Valencia v Barcelona
Barcelona make the short journey to Valencia for one of La Liga’s biggest encounters as the visitors aim to return to the top of the table.
With no European football to contend with, Valencia have started the season well, losing only twice in their 12 league games to lie fourth ahead of the weekend’s fixtures. Nuno Santo’s side have failed to win either of their last two games though, losing a local derby away to Levante last weekend on the back of a scoreless draw at home to Athletic Bilbao to fall six points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Both their defeats have come in the last five having gone seven games undefeated – winning five – in their opening seven and they remain unbeaten at home. Daniel Parejo and Paco Alcacer lead the way in goals for Los Che, with four apiece for the season.
After suffering the rare ignominy of two La Liga defeats on the spin around the turn of the month, Barcelona have reacted in style by winning their last four games,
…with two of those arriving in the Champions League, and trail bitter rivals Real by two points at the top of the table. Luis Enrique’s men have now won seven of their last nine in two competitions and boast the best defence in the Spanish top flight having conceded just six goals in their 12 outings.
The irrepressible Lionel Messi became the top scorer in the history of the European Cup with 74 goals after a hat-trick against APOEL Nicosia in midweek and the top scorer in the history of La Liga with a hat-trick against Sevilla last weekend. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner also became the leading scorer the club earlier this season, with 18 more added to his club tally this term.
Valencia could be dealt a major blow before a ball has even been kicked with top scorer and great new hope Alcacer a major doubt going ahead of the game. The 21-year-old faces a race against time to be fit after suffering a hamstring injury on international duty with Spain a fortnight ago although he is the likely to be their only absentee.
Former Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen, who is yet to make his debut for Barcelona since a summer move from London, was dealt a further blow in midweek when it was announced that he’ll be out for at least four more months with a hamstring injury which requires surgery. Andres Iniesta is also a big doubt for the Catalan side but French defender Jeremy Mathieu should be fit to play some part after returning to training this week.
Valencia earned their first league win against Barca since 2007 when the side’s last met in February in what was also their first win at the Camp Nou in a decade. Both clashes between the teams last season ended 3-2 to the visitors when Messi hit yet another hat-trick at the Mestalla and the Argentine has now scored 13 times in his last 9 games against these opponents.
As they look to be getting into top gear once more, it’s little surprise to see Barca as heavy 11/20 favourites even against a team yet to taste defeat on their own patch, but for odds-on bets this weekend, it’s hard to look beyond the 8/11 on Messi to extend his incredible exploits further.
The man about whom the term ‘record-breaker’ is said more regularly than Kriss Akabusi ever managed to spout it in the TV classic, can also be backed to score first at 10/3 or at anytime in an away win at 21/20. In what’s routinely proved a high-scoring game over 3.5 goals is well-priced at 5/4 too.