A Strength of Feet: Valencia – Barça

Liga Preview: Valencia – Barça, Saturday 4pmEST, GolTV

A return to the Mestalla brings with it Phil and RayRay and the hyperbole without which many of us could not survive. Also, it brings us back to La Liga, which, thankfully, is going to dominate my life for while and get the pesky memories of World Cup qualifiers out of there. I like the World Cup itself, but give me continuous Barça any day over trivial international fair like “win or go home” European qualifiers. And yes, I stayed up to watch several matches this time around. Shush.

Today is the 5th anniversary of one Lionel Messi’s league debut with the first team. He came on for the final 8 minutes against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, and though he didn’t score the above goal until May 1, 2005 against Albacete, you knew big things were in store for this little guy. Little guy is relative, of course. We can expect a lot more out of Messi against Valencia this weekend, I would think, than we did in that match oh so long ago. Thanks for the memories so far, Leo, and let’s hope they keep on coming.

The title of this post explained, after the jump.

On the count of kick...KICK!
On the count of kick...KICK!

This match is going to be a true test–our first true test in the league, to be honest. We’ve faced Gijon, Getafe, Atleti, Racing, Malaga, and Almeria, the highest of whom is ranked 8th (Getafe; Gijon is 9th) and the lowest 18th. The average ranking of the teams we’ve faced is currently 13th, which isn’t particularly high (but obviously will even out over the course of the season). My point is that while Atleti seemed a tough proposition when the season started, they haven’t shown their true abilities yet and we met them during their down time and while Getafe started so brightly and went into their match with us in first place, they were never going to really compete for the title or even a European spot. Not to denigrate what Barça has done so far this season (6-0-0 is fabulous!), but Getafe is no Valencia.

What we’ll need is strength of feet a la Robin Hood: Men in Tights, a really class-act match against a dangerous side. Though Valencia has not had the best of season so far relative to their abilities, they sit in 5th on 11 points, 7 back of us. They’re the only team to beat Sevilla (on Jornada 1, 2-0 at the Mestalla) and that’s got to count for something.* They’re 3W-2D-1L, 12GF 9GA. At home they’re actually worse, having gone 1W-2D-0L, 6GF 4GA.

You can obviously compare that to our away record (3W-0D-0L, 8GF 1GA) and come to the conclusion that this match is already over, but of course that’s never the case or we wouldn’t even bother playing them. Valencia are going to show up for this one, I’m sure and while they may just walk into our wheelhouse by attempting to play an open style, they’ve got a lot of talent and that could make up the difference between the 5-2 we put on Atleti when they did the same thing and a draw or a Valencia victory. If David Villa, their top scorer and the current pichichi with 6 goals, is able to make the match (and indications are that he will play), then Los Che get a lot more dangerous. Without Villa, they’ve only got 6 other goals to speak of–2 from Pablo, 2 from Mata and 1 each from Silva and Zigic**–but they’re still capable of attacking and winning matches on both the counterattack and through their possession game.

Despite all of this sporting potential, a lot of the focus on Valencia has been financial, with Soccernet writing up a piece about president Manuel Llorente’s recent statements:

Valencia president Manuel Llorente has underlined the club’s deep financial problems, explaining that they could easily have been demoted to the third tier of Spanish football this summer had the regional government not bailed them out to the tune of €74 million.

That would, obviously, have been the doomsday scenario, but Llorente goes on to say that Villa and Silva could still be up for sale, meaning that the hyenas are obviously going to arrive, cackling, in January, with my speculation being that Barça will probably offer something like €30million for any of the their big 3: David Villa, David Silva, and Juan Mata. That’s a tad bit smaller than the €50million that Valencia were demanding for Villa in the summer, but hey, things have changed now that we have Ibrahimovic and we don’t have to accept their transfer demands. It may not be fair to a club that is currently in massive debt (€500million, according to that Soccernet report), but we’re no longer in dire need of a striker and it does appear that they’re still in dire need of the cash. I’d much rather Mata or Silva (especially Silva) than Robinho, but what do I know?

Do these things distract the Valencia players? I have no idea, but when they stop getting paid it obviously gives them less incentive to work, which compounds the problems. Because Valencia is a good side and generally enjoyable to watch, I want them to survive and keep all of their players, but until they figure out how to get out of such monstrous debt, one can only hope that their terrible structural problems (revolving door of presidents and shareholders) doesn’t get the best of them.

Moving on to Barça:

On the injury front it appears that we’ll have Ibra and Xavi back (though Ibra didn’t practice today with the group), which is fantastic news, but we’ll be missing Henry for up to 10 days, meaning he’ll probably miss through the Zaragoza match. With Bojan back from injury and Pedro remaining fit, I think we have enough cover for both Valencia and the Rubin Kazan match, which thankfully is in Barcelona so we don’t have to travel on such tired legs. Instead we’ll have to go to Russia in the middle of the Artic winter that my stupid American ass thinks envelopes Russia 13 months a year.

Russia's Annual Summer Street Festival
Russia's Annual Summer Street Festival

So, no Henry and probably no Chygrynskiy, which means that we could see a rather impressive lineup anyway, depending on how Guardiola feels about Xavi’s involvement. Assuming our little Humphrey Bogart plays rather than gets what would be some well-earned rest, we could see a starting lineup that looks like this:

Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Ibra, Messi

If Ibra doesn’t play because of his injury, then we could see the front line be Iniesta, Bojan/Pedro, Messi. Either way I think we have a good shot at scoring more goals than they will simply because Iniesta has been coming back to form (and his match with Spain against Bosnia was a demolition that earned him a round of applause from the Bosnian fans when he was subbed off) and Messi is, well, Messi. Given that Valencia hasn’t been particularly sound defensively, I do think it will be a victory for us, in the end.

That’s not to say that Ibra won’t make it easier–or possible, really, because Valencia has some good defenders–but it is to say that, arrogant or not, we’re the best team in the league. Sorry. We’re 6-0-0 for a reason. Predicted score: 1-3, goals by Xavi, Keita, and Messi. I expect the match to be good, though, with no real winner until later, then Valencia goes looking for the tying goal and gets hit on the counter.

Note: Valencia’s official website claims that the following channels will have the match Canal+ (Francia), BskyB (England), WoWoW (Japan), SBS (Australia), ESPN (USA and Latin America), and Al Jazeera (Middle East). I currently have it listed as being on GolTV here in the US, so expect it to be on that channel and not on ESPN Deportes, which has Fuera de Juego and a repeat of a Dutch league match scheduled.

Match time: 10pm local time (Check your local time here)

* But if it does, then their 3-1 loss at Getafe should mean something as well, right? Oh no, it’s the head-to-head problem rising up again like it does every year in the BCS! Quick, let’s ignore it!
**Barça has only scored 7 goals outside of those  scored by Ibra and Messi (5 each), so that is perhaps not as telling a statistic as you might originally imagine. Keita and Pique both have 2, while Alves, Pedro, and Bojan each have 1.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside now that Keita is at the point where we predict him scoring. My eardrums are still ringing from Ramzi’s constant defense of his position with the club throughout last season.

  2. Valencia is up for this game it seems:


    No 6-0 at the mestalla footage from 2 years ago though 😉

  3. Valencia wants to come to this game firing. I say it as more of a contest, a test of character, and the game will be much closer and we might need a rivaldo type bicycle kick to win this one(I hope we see the inner ninja from Ibra)

  4. It would not surprise me to see Zigic for Villa. However, El Guaje being the bad ass he is, he will likely risk further injury and play in such an important match. However, he will probably be less than 100%. If Valencia repeat their strategy from last season’s second leg then Ibra will be vital.

  5. Also, I think we should not be favored in this one. We are tired, banged up, and playing at a stadium that usually gives us a hard time. Villa is also banged up but Mata, Silva, Pablito Hernandez, and Joaquin are exactly the types of players that give our defenders fits. Add Zigic the Giant in as a wild card and I will be ecstatic if we escape with a win.

    I am overjoyed at Marchena being out though. He is the Spanish Karate Kid and is always a danger to the health of opposing players’ knees and ankles. I won’t miss him in this game.

  6. “arrogant or not, we’re the best team in the league” Ahem….best team on the planet 🙂

  7. ah…. 3-1, Isaiah’s “safe” prediction.

    Imma go with 3-0 or 4-0.

    This is assuming that none of our CBs allow attacking forwards to just run straight pass them with the ball like they did in last season’s corresponding fixture.

    Alves, Pique, and Abidal will be crucial to neutralize their quick counters. Hence they will have to limit their attacking forays. Except for Alves. Assuming that Messi plays on the right, rather than in the center, I think Alves will force Silva or Mata to defend most of the game which works for us because that’s where Valencia’s creativity comes from since they don’t have a good CAM.

    I too think that it will be close until Valencia goes looking for a goal, then we drop the hammer.

  8. There is a flip side to that in that maybe Mata or Silva force ALVES to defend all game. Those wings will be a battlefield. The thing I like (or dislike in this case 😀 ) about Silva and Mata is that they don’t mind defending. They are Barca-style winger/forwards in that sense.

    I just found out that Joaquin is out which is good news. Keep an eye on Ever Banega who has had a good season and is finally living up to the hype. He is their link between midfield and attack if he plays.

    1. Maybe I am biased because I have fond memories of him in a Boca shirt when he orchestrated a team that won every competiton they entered in 2005. He HAS been a bust but he has had a good season thus far. There is still time for him to blow it 🙂 .

    2. Banega has been excellent for us so far this season. His passing and vision have been incredible. He still has room for improvement in a lot of areas, but based on his performance this season, he is far better than a ‘good player’.

    3. My point is that I’m being unfair. I’ve watched a couple of Valencia matches and wondered who they replaced Banega with cause that guy’s good now, but still, no, not good. He’s still filming himself naked somewhere, I’m sure.

    4. I’ll remember that 2005 Boca season with Tevez and Banega a few ruings below the Triplete. If a kid that young could win the South American equivalent of the quintuple in that position then he does have a hell of a lot of potential, naked self-photo shots notwithstanding. 😀

  9. I think Banega is second to only Xavi in assists this year, Other than Villa hes been their best player every time ive watched this season.

  10. I’m going to make a bold prediction and guess that the average ranking of Barcelona’s la Liga opposition at the end of the season will be around… 10th.

    Should be a good game this weekend, I’m looking forward to it.

  11. It’s 10°C right now in Kazan, much warmer than Vienna where I am. Actually quite a pity that we don’t play them now with the good weather they have.

    Valencia..yes, first real test, specially as we always have a hard time against them(well, at least whenever they are not a team in shambles). Would like to know how the Ibra effect works against them.

    And I would take David Silva on any given day over any Brazilian player. In fact, what he did together with Iniesta against Bosnia was soso good, I wished they could do it every week.

  12. If they end the season in 1st the average would be 10.3 something. If they finish dead last, it’d be 10 on the dot. But this is only if you are computing the average by entering the opposing teams’ final position in the poles.

    So yes, I was mocking you, couldn’t help myself. But suddenly I’m kind of interested to know the average rank of teams who played Barcelona at the time they played them. And since you’re pretty handy with the numbers…

  13. Isaiah, in a mysterious way, someone sent you an email to my own email account (or at least it start with Hello Isaiah, and talk about stat). If you send me your email on the account I use in this comment, I will forward that one for you.

    I remember we exchanged emails before, but it was long time ago, and cant find it.

    Now I will read the preview.

  14. i would think not getting paid would be even more of a carrot for valencia. either players’d want to keep valencia afloat w/good performances & get paid later or do well individually to try & get swooped up by another club.

    this is my line up for barca: valdes; alves, puyol, txignastys, abidal(he injured?); xavi, toure, keita; messi, ibra, iniesta.

    i think puyol should be instrumental in countering wing play if dani were to be caught out of position on our right.

    i missed the brazil ghana game. pissed. x^[

  15. Damn. Andrés Montes, one of the best Spanish language commentators of recent times was found dead today.

    Rest in Peace, Andrés.

    ¡Tiki-Taka-Tiki-Taka! para siempre.

    1. I’m bummed too. Tiki taka … and ¡fútbol con patatas!

      I’m actually making patatas bravas in honor of Andrés today.


  16. fellas,

    can someone please tell me what channel the match is being shown on in America…im in Arizona if that helps?


  17. Wow…my mind ran across Lilian Thuram 2day…i wonder where he is now…was so sad for him to end the way he did.

    1. As far as I know, he’s involved in politics and is a thoughtful and intelligent member of the global community. He’s been involved in FCB-related charities since his retirement, which is great.

  18. what’s that 1st picture? is that the dread pirate roberts? i don’t think so. “bow to the queen of slime!”

  19. Diego ,Diego, Diego. Sigh, just how long will Maradona keep his job?


    1. Maradona is, in my opinion, a drug-addled poorly-aging neurotic and an insane choice for AFA tech. And I appreciate Kxevin’s chivalrous disclaimer in his translations of M.’s recent outburst at the presser. But really, a suspension? Technically he did not break any FIFA prohibitions against making discriminatory comments or actions against a certain demographic. He was just rude. And we are all shocked, shocked? He’s a soccer legend and a ruined genius, but a class act he is not. So be it.

  20. official prediction: Zlatan is going to come out like gangbusters this game. it’s more than time he got 2-3 goals in a game: i think he’ll do it here. Valencia are a good side (especially with Villa leading the line), but they’ve not really given us any trouble in recent times and i think we have their number. scoreline: 1-3 Barca.

  21. this russian annual summer street festival caption had me cracking up! hahaha. Hope Bojan can play

  22. A family of culés native of Valencia over here waiting for GolTV kickoff. Do we root for the Yaya or for the team of our yaya? Oh, the cognitive dissonance!

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