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Following Thursday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Granada, it is more important than ever for Barça to take all three points from Sunday’s trip to Valencia (9.00pm CEST). Here’s our lowdown on the club they call Los Che.
Where are they from?
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, the fifth largest port in the Mediterranean and the capital of the region of the same name, where many people speak Valencian, a sister-language of Catalan. Its huge historic centre is crammed with buildings to admire, and it’s also the home of Spain’s most famous dish, paella, and of the spectacular fallas festival in March.
The club was founded in 1919, but was not among the founder members of La Liga in 1928. Valencia started in the second division, but won promotion three years later and have stayed there ever since apart one season, 1986/87, when they dropped down to the second.
Despite being one of Europe’s biggest and richest clubs, Valencia have generally played a supporting role to Barça and Real Madrid in La Liga, but have won the title six times, most recently in 2004, and in 2019 beat Barça to claim an eighth Copa del Rey trophy.
They’ve also won all of the big continental trophies apart from the Champions League, in which they were beaten finalists twice in a row in 2000 and 2001.
The 55,000 capacity Mestalla takes its name from a canal that used to run alongside the field. For several years it was known instead as the Luis Casanova after one of the club’s most esteemed presidents, but in 1994 the man himself asked for it to take back its former name.
The seventh largest stadium in the country is one of the favourite homes for the Spanish national team, who based their games here for both the 1982 World Cup and the 1992 Olympic Games (which were of course, held in Barcelona).
Built in 1923, it is the oldest of the twenty La Liga grounds, but its days are numbered. Work on a new stadium began in 2007 but the process has been interrupted by financial difficulties and it’s still unclear when the venue will be complete.
Did you know?
- Valencia is the third-most supported football club in Spain. No prizes for guessing who the top two are.
- Valencia’s first European trophy was the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1962. They beat Barça in the final.
- The bat on the Valencia logo dates back to the arms of the 13th century King James I of Aragon, but that didn’t stop DC Comics voicing an objection (but not an official lawsuit) against the club in 2013, claiming that it was too similar to the Batman logo
- Two of the biggest stars of the 1978 World Cup, Johnny Rep of the Netherlands and top scorer Mario Kempes of Argentina, were both Valencia players.
- One of the most dramatic games ever played between the clubs came on the final day of the 2002/03 season. Both Valencia (finalists in the previous two editions) and Barça were in danger of missing out on the next season’s Champions League and they met on the final day at Camp Nou. Valencia only needed a draw, and the game was about to end 2-2 when Rivaldo changed everything with a stunning overhead kick in injury time.
- Ronald Koeman was manager of Valencia in the 2007/08 season.
To say this has not been the best of seasons at Valencia would be an understatement. They are currently, and unless things improve, this will be their lowest finish since 1986, the only time they have ever been relegated.
The six-point cushion should be enough to make sure they don’t go down this season, but they still need points to make absolutely certain of that. However, despite their precarious position, their home form has not been too bad. In fact, nobody has managed to win at Mestalla since Sevilla did back in December.
LAST FIVE GAMES
April 24: Valencia 1-1 Alavés
April 21: Osasuna 3-1 Valencia
April 18: Real Betis 2-2 Valencia
April 11: Valencia 2-2 Real Sociedad
April 4: Cadiz 2-1 Valencia
Head to head
Valencia’s 2-0 victory in this fixture last season was their first league win at home to Barça since 2007. However, their recent form against Barça has been very strong. Including victory in the 2019 Copa del Rey Final, they have only lost one of their last six games against the Catalans.
Earlier this season they managed to take a point from their visit to Camp Nou, with Maxi Gomez snatching a 2-2 draw after Messi and Araujo had cancelled out Mouctar Diakhaby’s opener.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
19/12/20 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Messi, Araujo) Valencia 2
25/1/20 (LIGA) Valencia 2 Barça 0 (see video below)
14/09/19 (LIGA) Barça 5 (Fati, De Jong, Piqué, Suárez 2) Valencia 2
25/05/19 (COPA) Valencia 2 Barça 1 (Messi)
02/02/19 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Messi 2) Valencia 2
07/10/18 (LIGA) Valencia 1 Barça 1 (Messi)
Jasper Cillessen (Holland, 60); Denis Cheryshev (Russia, 30); Daniel Wass (Denmark, 28); Gonçalo Guedes (Portugal, 22); Maxi Gómez (Uruguay, 19); José Gayà (Spain, 13); Kevin Gameiro (France, 13); Eliaquim Mangala (France, 8), Lee Kang-in (South Korea, 6), Yunus Musah (USA, 4)
Dutch international goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was at Barça for three seasons, mainly as second choice behind Ter Stegen, and left for Valencia in the summer of 2019.
Top scorers 2020/21
Carlos Soler (8), Manu Vallejo (5), Maxi Gómez (5)
Javi Gracia’s clubs as a player included Real Sociedad and Villarreal. As a manager, he is best known in Spain for two very good years in charge of Málaga, but he has also coached in Greece and Russia and in 2019 led Watford to the FA Cup Final for only the second time ever. He was sacked from that position the following season, and joined Valencia as a replacement for former Barça man Albert Celades last summer.
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