Barcelona out for revenge as they host Valencia in clash of historic LaLiga names
Barcelona welcome Valencia to the Camp Nou for Saturday evening's LaLiga Santander clash with both sides looking to kickstart their 2019/20 campaigns and memories fresh of recent close encounters between the two teams.
Both Barça and Valencia have had mixed starts to the new LaLiga season, with new players settling in and injuries huge factors as each has taken just four points from their first three games.
There will also be extra spice on Saturday as it’ll be the first meeting between the two sides since Valencia shocked Barça in last season’s Copa del Rey final. On that night in May Valencia took an early 2-0 lead through Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno, holding on for a first trophy in a decade even after Blaugrana captain Lionel Messi clawed one back after half time.
Valencia also achieved creditable draws against the 2018/19 LaLiga Santander winners in both league meetings during the season. The Camp Nou fixture finished 2-2 in February, with Valencia also going two goals up in the first half, but Barça that time getting back for a point thanks to a Messi double. At Mestalla last October it was defender Ezequiel Garay who put the home team ahead before – you guessed it – Barça’s mercurial number 10 got his team’s equaliser.
Supporters on both sides will therefore be wondering whether Saturday brings Messi’s 2019/20 season debut, with the Argentine’s absence due to a tricky calf muscle problem clearly contributing to Barça’s uneven start to the campaign.
There have been plenty of bright spots however for blaugrana fans to enjoy already. Summer signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong have both settled quickly into the starting XI, with Griezmann outstanding in the 5-2 victory at home to Real Betis and De Jong showing impressive passing range and tactical understanding.
Valencia took a big step forward in their last game before the international break, a 2-0 victory at home to newly promoted RCD Mallorca, with both goals being penalties from Captain Dani Parejo. That game brought a first Los Che clean sheet for Jasper Cillessen, a summer signing from Barcelona who will be looking forward to meeting his former side.
Barça’s contingent with a Valencia past includes Spain left-back Jordi Alba, who began his LaLiga career at Mestalla, and coach Ernesto Valverde, who had a short but impressive spell as coach during the 2012/13 season. Also previously in charge at Espanyol, Villarreal and Athletic Club, Valverde has won two LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey since taking his seat on the Camp Nou bench in summer 2017.
Valverde knows his team will need to improve over the course of the season, with Barca aiming for a ninth LaLiga title in 12 years. Both coaches need a positive result on Saturday at the Camp Nou to get their teams moving in that direction.