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In between their two Europa League games with Napoli, Barça have a big game in La Liga too. On Sunday at 4.15pm CET, they travel to Valencia. 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 original 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.
Valencia is the third-most supported football club in Spain, but they have generally played a supporting role to Barça and Real Madrid in La Liga. However, they 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.
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.
Thirteenth place in the 2020/21 La Liga was very poor by Valencia’s usual standards, but 2021/22 has not been going much better.
There have been four very clear phases. They got off to a bright start, but then went for seven games without a single wins. There was a marked improvement in November and December, but things then took another remarkable turn for the worse. They haven’t won since Christmas and dropped to 12th place after losing to Alavés last week, their lowest position of the season.
In contrast, they marches all the way to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, although the only first division team they had to beat on the way was Cádiz. They drew 1-1 in Bilbao in the first leg and host the return fixture on March 2.
LAST FIVE GAMES
February 13 (LIGA): Alavés 2-1 Valencia
February 10 (COPA): Athletic Club 1-1 Athletic Club
February 6 (LIGA): Valencia 0-0 Real Sociedad
February 2 (COPA): Valencia 2-1 Cádiz
January 22 (LIGA): Atlético Madrid 3-2 Valencia
Head to head
Valencia have only won three of their last 29 league meetings with Barça, and their 2-0 win in 2020 was their first at home to the Catalans since 2007. The other two victories were both at Camp Nou, 3-2 in 2014 and 2-1 in 2016.
Their recent form against Barça has actually been quite strong, with just three defeats in the last eight meetings, including victory in the 2019 Copa del Rey Final.
Valencia scored first in this fixture last season, but Barça ended up winning it 3-2, and they also took the lead after just five minutes at Camp Nou earlier this season, but ended up losing that one too.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
17/9/21 (LIGA) Barça 3 (Ansu Fati, Memphis, Coutinho) Valencia 1
2/5/21 (LIGA) Valencia 2 Barça 3 (Messi 2, Griezmann)
19/12/20 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Messi, Araujo) Valencia 2
25/1/20 (LIGA) Valencia 2 Barça 0
14/09/19 (LIGA) Barça 5 (Fati, De Jong, Piqué, Suárez 2) Valencia 2
Jasper Cillessen (Holland, 60); Denis Cheryshev (Russia, 33); Gonçalo Guedes (Portugal, 28); Maxi Gómez (Uruguay, 22); José Gayà (Spain, 16); Yunus Musah (USA, 8), Omar Alderete (Paraguay, 8), Eray Cömert (Switzerland, 7)
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.
Ilaix Moriba (above) was a Barça B player who featured in 14 games for the first team last season under Ronald Koeman, becoming the club’s fifth youngstest scorer of all time when he netted against Osasuna. The Guinean was solf to RB Leipzig at the start of this season, but since last month has returned to La Liga on loan to Valencia.
Winger Alex Blanco was part of Barça’s youth setup for two years from 2014–16 before returning to Valencia.
Top scorers 2021/22
Gonçalo Guedes (9), Carlos Soler (7), Hugo Duro (6)
José Bordalás spent most of his life playing and managing clubs in the Alicante region, but gained his reputation among coaching circles when he guided both Alavés and Getafe to promotion to La Liga, very nearly qualifying the latter for the Champions League. In the summer of 2021, he accepted the Valencia job that was vacant since the dismissal of Javi Gracia in the wake of the 3-2 defeat to Barça.
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