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Victory against Granada on Thursday would have put Barça one point clear at the top of the league table with just five games to go. But an unexpected 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou means the team instead lies third in what is hotting up into one of the tightest Liga title races ever.
Just three points separate the top four teams. Anything other than wins from now on could prove very costly indeed, and that includes Barça’s next mission: a tricky away trip to Valencia on Sunday at 9.00pm CEST.
The team needs to put Sunday’s setback behind them immediately. And although they are visiting a side that’s fighting to avoid its lowest finish for 35 years, Valencia have not lost at home since December and Barça have only beaten them once in the last six meetings.
Last season, Valencia won this fixture 2-0, and also managed to draw 2-2 at Camp Nou earlier in the present campaign.
Barça need the three points more than ever – but it is anything but a simple mission.
How it stands
Atlético Madrid will be coming to the Camp Nou next week as leaders after winning 1-0 at Elche on Saturday afternoon. A Llorente goal on 23 minutes split the teams, although Atlético survived a late scare when Elche were awarded a penalty but hit the post.
And Real Madrid also kept up the pressure by defeating Osasuna 2-0.
Those two results make it more important than ever for Barça to make sure that they win their game too, while Sevilla, who have been on rampant form of late and are very much part of the picture too, play until Monday night, at home to Athletic Club (9.00pm CEST).
After being red-carded against Granada, Ronald Koeman himself is suspended for this game.
The coach announced his list of 23 players on Saturday morning, with Matheus Fernandes returning to the squad. Martin Braithwaite, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati all miss out through injury.
Did you know?
Uruguayan Maxi Gomez has scored in his last four league games against Barça, and could become the first player this century to score against the Culers in five successive games.
Leo Messi has scored 29 goals against Valencia in all competitions. The only teams that have been on the receiving end of the Argentinian’s magic more are Sevilla (43) and Atlético Madrid (32). Antoine Griezmann has scored eight times against Valencia, but is still looking for his first in a Barça shirt.
Valencia boss Javier Garcia was in charge of Osasuna they day they lost 7-0 to Barça in 2014. However, in seven meetings in total, he’s only been beaten three times.
Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, has never beaten his former club Valencia as a manager. He drew twice as the boss of Ajax in the Champions League and also 2-2 at Barça earlier this season.
Every time Barça have scored first in an away fixture season, they have gone on to win the match (11 times out of 11).
Barça are the team that has allowed the fewest shots in this season’s Liga (273). Valencia is the team that has faced the most (463).
Ronald Koeman says
"Granada was a disappointing lost opportunity … There is always the danger of thinking you’re in control because you have most possession. We need to position ourselves better in defence.”
“But there’s no time to dwell on that, we are still in the hunt for title … If we win our five remaining games I’m convinced we’ll still be champions … It’s a tough championship with very strong teams and four candidates for the title separated by just three points. You will pay for any lack of concentration. That’s what’s nice about this season, no one team is better than the rest."
“We’re appealing the suspension because it’s too heavy. If you really insult someone, they give you 20 games. But I won’t be on the bench tomorrow. We’ve discussed the situation and we have a good set of coaches. We need to see what we can do. I’ll speak to Carlos Naval and sort something out. We’ll find the best way and see if it’s possible for me to be in contact.”
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