After a shaky start to the new La Liga season, Barcelona will be looking to restore some stability within the team ahead of their meeting with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League next week.
It has hardly been plain sailing for Barcelona. With the Neymar deal falling through, an injured star in Lionel Messi, and further injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, all is not well at Camp Nou.
When looking at the current La Liga table, followers of the Spanish league will be shocked to see the 26-time winners of La Liga currently sat in eight position with just four points from three games.
After years of the Barcelona vs. Real Madrid rivalry for the top spot, it seems the tables have finally turned as Los Blancos have just five points and are currently in fifth position.
Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla are currently taking the top three spots in the league and are all undefeated, meaning that a win this weekend for Barcelona, who host Valencia, is vital.
Barcelona’s only win so far has been against Real Betis in an expected 5-2 victory, however they have struggled against the likes of second place Bilbao, who they lost against in the first game of the season, and also suffered a shock draw against Osasuna before the international break.
Whilst Barca’s start to the season hasn’t been a total disaster, it has certain been lacklustre and it will be important for the team to get back to winning ways before their group stage of the Champions League begins.
Although Barca have had consistent success in the league, the club have not won the Europe’s biggest prize since the 2014/15 season, meaning that Ernesto Valverde will certainly have his eye on the trophy this season.
Despite the arrival of Antoine Griezmann, who did score twice against Betis, the France international is yet to display his true capabilities at his new club and has failed to make the necessary impact with injuries to his fellow three forwards. Although Suarez is set to return on Saturday, Barca will still be without their main man Messi who is yet to play this season due to a calf injury.
Whilst it is early on in the season, Barcelona cannot afford to drop anymore points as Atletico Madrid are already sitting at the top of the table with nine points. A loss on Saturday could raise questions over Valverde’s position at Camp Nou, and he could risk following in the footsteps of Valencia’s coach.
As Valencia prepare to travel north to Barcelona, the main talking point will be management. On Wednesday the club announced that they had sacked Marcelino as head coach, who led Los Ches to their first major trophy for 11 years in their Copa del Rey title last season, due to disagreements with the club.
At the wheel of the Mestalla now is former Real Madrid assistant and Barcelona player, Albert Celades. The change, reportedly decided by Valencia’s general manager Mateu Alemany and their owner Peter Lim, has certainly caused some tension with numerous players expressing their strong opinions on the managerial change.
However, with Barcelona on the horizon and Chelsea looming in the Champions League next week, the team have to brush off the internal issues at the club and focus on the task that lies ahead, recreating their 2019 Copa del Rey victory which saw them beat Barcelona 2-1 in the final.
Their season so far has been a mixed bag of results, including a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, a loss to Celta Vigo and a 2-0 victory over newly-promoted RCD Mallorca. The club, who have experienced back-to-back fourth-placed finishes, now sit in 10th-position – however that doesn’t mean that the team cannot hurt Barcelona on Saturday.
One battle that will be interesting to see will be that of captains Sergio Busquets and Daniel Parejo who will go head-to-head on the pitch.
Whilst Busquest, who known for his huge presence will certainly be looking to make an impact, Parejo’s attacking nature and ability to dictate the play means that whoever is able to establish dominance will surely play a decisive role in who could take all three points.
Whilst the pressure is on for both teams, it seems almost certain that with the return of Suarez alongside Griezmann, Barcelona will come out on top. However, with no new injury worries for Valencia, Los Ches could surprise and cause Barcelona a real headache ahead of an important week in the Champions League.
*all odds are subject to change