Relegation contenders will be welcoming La Liga champions Barcelona at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla this week.
These two sides have faced off 11 times in the recent past with Barca winning 10 of them. Valladolid have only managed to cough up a solitary win and each of the past 11 meetings between these two sides has delivered a result. The last time these two sides met in the League was in August last year and the champions won the game in a dominating and convincing manner with the final scoreline reading 4-0.
Real Valladolid are in a bit of a bother with the side stuck in the 18th position on the table. They are 17th placed Getafe only on goal difference and so avoiding a loss on Tuesday is critical for Paulo Pezzolano’s side. To be blunt, Valladolid are not expected to win against Barcelona though the three La Liga points would boost their hopes of survival. There is a lot to play for the Pucela against Barcelona, who were crowned La Liga champions for the first time since 2018/19. The hosts are coming on the back of five straight losses, conceding 14 goals in the process. Their recent form has derailed their campaign and has put their La Liga status for next term at crossroads. Pezzolano, who was appointed last month following the dismissal of Pacheta, has so far, failed to steer his side off the drop zone.
Tuesday will be a very difficult and different challenge for Valladolid as they will be going up against a Barca side that is, at the moment, keen on trying out new combinations and their bench strength. So, while they will start as the underdogs for this one, it is their best chance of recording a vital win against the Catalan giants. That being said, reversing their fortunes after coming on the back of a five-match losing streak will not be easy. So, with a lot to play for, Valladolid will have to be proactive and take the fight to Barca if they are to stand any chance of winning or at least, drawing on Tuesday. The hosts will be without Anuar Tuhani, Luis Perez, and Selim Amallah all due to injury. Martin Hongla will be serving his suspension in this game and so will not be a part of the proceedings. This comes after Hongla picked up a red card against Cadiz. Pezzolano could look to bring in an extra forward in Gonzalo Plato to serve the saying which basically says that goals win you games.
Jordi Masip, Joaquin Fernandez, and Cyle Larin are running the risk of suspension and with their survival at stake, they will have to be extremely careful not to pick up another caution.
Barcelona lost their recent home fixture against Real Sociedad 2-1 but that is not expected to tie down Xavi Hernandez from trying out new combinations and players in the XI. The Blaugrana have dominated La Liga this season and boast of the best away record in the league, picking up 40 points from 17 away games. So, it goes without saying that they will start this game as the undisputed favorites and will be expected to give Valladolid a tough time at home.
Xavi is expected to rest some key players ahead of this clash. Pedri and Ronald Araujo missed the previous game due to a minor niggle but are expected to be named on the squad that will make the trip to Valladolid. One should however, not expect the duo to be included in the lineup as the club would not be too keen on risking two of their most important players this late in the season, with the league title issue already settled. Ansu Fati could also be given a go with Raphinha expected to get some rest. Ousmane Dembele will most likely make his second successive start since returning from injury while Frenkie de Jong, who played the entire 90 minutes against Sociedad, could make way for Franck Kessie. One can also expect Pablo Torre to be involved at some stage.
Jordi Alba, Alejandro Balde, Ferran Torres, Kessie, and Dembele are all running the risk of getting suspended for the game against Mallorca (H) and so will have to walk a fine line. For Xavi though, everyone is fit and ready to feature in the XI.
Sergio Leon will be the player to watch out for the hosts. The Spaniard has found the back of the net six times in the league while registering an assist. He is in line to start the game on Tuesday and will be essential for the hosts to capitalize on the limited number of attacking opportunities they are likely going to get.
Ousmane Dembele against Sociedad showed what Barca lacked whilst he was injured. The Frenchman over the course of Xavi’s tenure, has been heavily backed by the former midfielder and he showed in the game against Sociedad the reason behind it. He is and always has been a differential player. He may not be the best in terms of consistency but on his day he can take down the opposition with his unique set of skills. He has five goals and as many assists to his name from his 22 La Liga appearances this term but it is a question of what could have been if he had managed to stay fit. Valladolid have their task cut out for them with regards to stopping the winger on the flanks.
Expert Opinion: Real Valladolid are in a bad moment but they have a chance to turn their fortunes around at home. But, the fact remains that the hosts will start as the underdogs in this one and their best hope of getting a result will be by exploiting Barca’s Highline but the visitors also hold the best defensive record in the league. It will likely be a case of a game where Barca will look to strangle Valladolid in their own half with the odd chance to counter coming the hosts’ way.