The match against Valencia comes too soon for Barca’s new signing Jordi Alba, who is still leaving with his parents near Mestalla, but that doesn’t mean that the full-back or another former los Che, David Villa will be doing their former teammates any favours at Camp Nou. The Catalans desperately need a morale-boosting victory after the Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, but Valencia, too, need to show some improvement following the 3-3 draw against Deportivo La Coruna.
Two different halves at Santiago Bernabeu
Victor Valdes’ blunder may have ultimately decided the winner in Spanish Super Cup, but, in all fairness, Barcelona did not deserve to lift the trophy this time out. Following the 3-2 victory in the first leg, the Catalans allowed their opponents to create five or six clear-cut chances within the first period of the match at Santiago Bernabeu, and they were very fortunate not to concede more than two goals. The team showed a lot of improvement in the second half despite playing with ten men, but their back line was simply non-existent in Madrid. While Valencia may not have the likes of Ronaldo, Ozil and Di Maria in their ranks, they have plenty of quality up front, and can be expected to put Barca defenders under pressure on more than one occasion. Barcelona, on the other hand, will give their best to return to winning ways at their Camp Nou, which should guarantee us an open game of football on Sunday night.
Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas are expected to start as Tito Vilanova plans to rest Busquets plus one of Xavi or Iniesta, while Dani Alves is expected to return after missing the Real Madrid game through illness.
Costly mistakes against Deportivo
Valencia squad have undergone a kind of an overhaul this summer, with the likes of Pablo Hernandez, Mehmet Topal, Jordi Alba, Aritz Aduriz and Hedwiges Maduro following coach Unai Emery on his exit from Mestalla. The club officials led by sporting director Braulio Vazquez did well to reinforce the squad with Aly Cissokho, Nelson Valdez, Fernando Gago, Joao Pereira and Andres Guardado, while appointing former player Mauricio Pellegrino at the helm. Los Che started the season well, having brought one point from Santiago Bernabeu, but they then squandered a two-goal lead at home to Deportivo La Coruna and had to settle for just one point. Team’s form is obviously expected to flutter until the new players fully integrate into the squad, so no one really knows what to expect from los Che at Camp Nou. One thing’s for sure, Valencia won’t be afraid to attack their more illustrious opponents.
Fernando Gago is all but ruled out with a groin problem, while Jeremy Mathieu is sidelined with an Achilles injury. Sergio Canales and Ever Banega remain long-term casualties.
Barcelona are desperate to make amends for the Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, but their back line is going to have to show a massive improvement if the Catalans are to win this game. Valencia have been scoring goals for fun at the start of the league campaign and they do seem to have what it takes to bag at least one at Camp Nou.
Our prediction: Both teams to score
Odds: 1.91 (10/11)