By 90Min
August 24, 2018

Barcelona began the new La Liga season with the same attacking force that they displayed throughout the last one, comfortably seeing off Alaves 3-0 with the help of a brace from Lionel Messi and a goal from Philippe Coutinho.

The next step on Barcelona's title defence is a trip to newly-promoted Real Valladolid, who drew 0-0 with Girona in their opening game of the season to get their first point on the board.

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Though it took Barca until well into the second half to break the deadlock against Alaves, the players will slowly but surely be shaking off their pre-season cobwebs and will almost certainly have too much firepower for Valladolid to handle this weekend.

La Blaugrana are still yet to introduce several of their summer signings to the starting eleven and Ernesto Valverde could be tempted to hand out starts to the likes of Malcom and Arturo Vidal, though this remains to be seen.

Valladolid's last victory over La Blaugrana came all the way back in 2002, making the chances of an upset by the Blanquivioletas seem somewhat unlikely.


Classic Encounter


Valladolid have never had much luck against Barcelona and have not beaten the Catalan giants for sixteen years. However, they did at least make them sweat during an encounter at the Nou Camp back in October 2013.

With Barca missing the likes of Messi, Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol through injury, Valladolid capitalised on the slightly weakened home side by taking a surprise lead when Javi Guerra headed home from a corner.

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However, it did not take Barca long to right this wrong and Alexis Sanchez quickly restored parity four minutes later.

Though Valladolid managed to impressively hold on until half time, Barcelona ran riot in the second half as goals from Xavi, Neymar and Sanchez again consigned the Pucela to another away defeat, the club having failed to win on the road since February of that year.


Key Battle


Valladolid will most likely have their backs to the wall for the vast majority of Saturday night's match, forcing them to take what few chances Barcelona allow them in the hope of snatching a goal. With the emphasis primarily on defending, it will be down to the back line to withstand the likes of Messi, Dembele, Suarez and more.

Experienced centre-back Kiko Olivas and his younger defensive partner Fernando Calero stood firm under a lot of pressure from Girona last weekend, with Valladolid having just two shots on goal to their opponents' 13 and still holding out for the clean sheet.

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Still, this will be an entirely different challenge for the two defenders and they might find dealing with one of the deadliest attacking lines in world football a slightly more demanding prospect. 

Coping with the threat of Messi alone requires an entire back line to put a shift in - if Valladolid are to keep Barcelona's whole attack under control for 90 minutes, they will need to give an extremely disciplined and tactically drilled performance.


Team News


Philippe Coutinho only returned from his post-World Cup holiday in time to make the bench in the opening match but could be ready to return to the Barcelona starting eleven this weekend, giving Valverde something of a selection dilemma after the team he selected against Alaves gave an impressive performance.

Valverde likes to alternate between a 4-3-3 and a more traditional 4-4-2 in his lineup choices and Coutinho's versatility makes him perfect for this fluctuating formational play, able to play out wide or drop into a midfield three.

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With regard to injuries, the Barcelona squad boasts an almost entirely clean bill of help, with only backup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and midfielder Sergi Samper currently sidelined.

Valladolid remain without Ivi Lopez, the forward signed on loan from Levante this summer. The 24-year-old is continuing to struggle with an Achilles problem, making him unavailable for selection for the time being.


Predicted Lineups


Real Valladolid: Masip, Nacho, Calero, Kiko, Moyano, Alcaraz, Borja, Suarez, Anuar, Keko, de la Flor.

Barcelona: ter Stegen, Roberto, Umtiti, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Coutinho, Dembele, Suarez, Messi.


 Predictions

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With Barcelona appearing to have maintained their momentum from last season's title win over the summer break, it is hard to see any other outcome than a victory for Messi and co this weekend.

Barca simply have too much firepower to handle and with Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings in midfield, Valverde's side are blessed with an unreal amount of creativity and flair that Valladolid are unlikely to be able to cope with.

Valladolid will be defending for their lives against Barca and with 90 minutes of defending to do against the league champions, it is likely a goal will find its way in sooner or later.

Prediction: Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona

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