Valencia vs Barcelona preview

January 31, 2012
By: Frank Beresford

Both sides eliminated their fierce rivals to reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals, but the absence of true rivalry between Valencia and Barcelona doesn’t mean that we won’t see an exciting encounter at Mestalla.

Despite the strong start to the season, los Che were not able to keep up with Real Madrid and Barcelona, although they have done well to cement the third place in the standings.

For quite a while now Valencia are regarded as the best of the rest in Spanish La Liga and they appear to have no problems justifying the tag.

Los Che have suffered a small dip in form, having picked up just two points from last three La Liga games, but comfortable Copa del Rey victories over Levante should serve as a major confidence boost for the players.

Valencia already held Barcelona to a 2:2 draw in La Liga at the start to the season, so another draw could be on the cards, and Ladbrokes pays 4.33 (10/3) if the game ends all squared.

Pablo Hernandez, Adil Rami and Miguel shook off minor knocks and are expected to be in contention, but Mehmet Topal is unlikely to feature after suffering a concussion in the Racing match.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Diego Alves – Miguel, Rami, Ruiz, Alba – Banega, Albelda – Feghouli, Jonas, Mathieu – Soldado.

Barcelona made a giant step towards the Copa del Rey final by eliminating bitter rivals Real Madrid, but the Catalans still have cause for concern before the Valencia clash.

Pep Guardiola’s side played below all expectations in the second leg against Real Madrid and were very lucky not to lose the game, whereas the goalless draw at Villarreal saw them virtually say goodbye to the La Liga title.

Barcelona’s season is, therefore, threatening to turn into an utter disappointment, which is exactly why Pep Guardiola spent a lot of time making sure his players understand the importance of the good result against Valencia.

The Catalans will give their best to triumph at Mestalla and thus kick-start their season, and backing them to win at 1.62 (8/13) offered by bet365 looks like the right thing to do.

Pedro has been ruled out with a muscle problem, whereas Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Ibrahim Afellay remain sidelined. The good news is that Alexis Sanchez is expected to return.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Pinto – Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal – Xavi, Busquets, Thiago – Sanchez, Messi, Fabregas.

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