Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Preview: Valencia - Barcelona

The biggest match this weekend in Europe is Valencia - Barcelona. This is pretty similar to Sevilla - Real Madrid the previous matchweek. For Barça it is the first true test of the season. They have rolled through their previous six matches. All are wins, by an average of over 2 goals. On the other side Valencia are similar to Sevilla in that they are a club that has title aspirations but isn't expected to beat the two big clubs. While it's only one match, given that the Che find themselves 7 points back right now a loss might well end their title hopes even at this early stage, or at least feel that way.

The match kicks off at 22:00 local (only in Spain would matches start at 10!). Spain is in the Central European timezone so subtract an hour if you are in the UK. In the United States you can find it at 4 PM Eastern on GolTV.

Recent History

Over the last 10 seasons, Barcelona have 9 wins, Valencia 6 wins and they have played 5 draws. In Mestalla, Valencia have 4 wins, Barcelona 5 wins and they played to 1 draw. It's been pretty close to even when the two have played in Valencia.

Form

Because La Liga is only 6 matches into the season, I'll just go over league results to this point.

Barcelona are an impressive 6-0-0 with 17 goals for and 3 against. Their biggest win so far is probably a 5-2 win over Atletico de Madrid at home. The teams they have beaten aren't impressive, but the scorelines are: 3-0, 0-2, 5-2, 1-4, 0-2 and 1-0. Almeria were the nil in that last scoreline. They played a very defensive style and clearly went out going for the point. I don't see Valencia trying that.

Valencia are 3-2-1 with 12 goals for and 9 against. Their biggest win was 2-0 over Sevilla the first weekend of the season. After beating Sevilla, they won 2-4 in Valladolid and since haven't been all that great with 1 win, 2 draws and a 3-1 loss at Getafe in there.

Injuries

Barça have some injury problems, but on the bright side have some players recovering. Henry is likely still out with a muscle strain. Ibrahimovic took a hit to the knee in Sweden's qualifying match Wednesday, but is expected to play. Iniesta seems to be fully healthy now after having had thigh problems all season. It looks like Bojan is back from a similar problem. The biggest issue for Barça is probably the effects of traveling and playing in the midweek in internationals for many of their players.

Valencia have two big injuries. Carlos Marchena, who has been a fixture in either central defense or as a defensive midfielder, is still out. Up top they may be without star striker David Villa. Villa tore a thigh muscle two weeks ago against Racing de Santander. There are rumors that he will and others saying he won't start. I think most likely he'll play some role but won't be 100%.

Playing at Home and Away

Valencia last season were a very strong team at home, third only behind the big two. They went 12-4-3 and had an impressive +21 goal differential. In contrast they were not very good away, only 8th best in the league. Playing in Mestalla was very important for them. Needless to say, Barcelona rolled last year both home and away. They were almost as good on the road as at home - 14-3-2 at home and just 3 points back at 13-3-3 away.

Scoring and Conceding Rankings

Last season, Barça were the best team at both scoring and defending. They scored 105 goals and only conceded 35. Valencia were the 4th best attacking team, with 68 goals. Their problems were more at the defensive end - they conceded 54 goals, good for 8th overall. This offseason not too much changed for the two sides, so I don't see any big reason why those figures should be a lot different.

Once again, I'll give the usual caveat that only 6 matches into the season these rankings aren't fully reliable because there is a lot of variance in the results of such a short period. At this point in the season, Barcelona rank second overall. The problem for the Catalans is really just the schedule; Real Madrid have scored the same number of goals and only conceded one more against a tougher schedule. Barça rate as second best in both scoring and defending - scoring they are behind Real Madrid, defending behind Sevilla. Valencia are significantly further down in both. The Che rank 6th best at scoring and are near the bottom, 16th, defensively. The model puts them there because the number of goals they've conceded, 9, is right in the middle but their schedule has been relatively easy in terms of how good at scoring their opponents have been. Overall Valencia rate as the 7th best team in the Primera.

Predictions

The PLM gives Barcelona an edge, saying the Catalans have a 57% chance to win, Valencia have just 17% with a 26% chance of a draw. Again, this may not be reliable due to the small sample sizes involved. Looking at the two clubs, it seems just about right. Without Marchena, Valencia haven't looked strong defensively and that's certainly bad news when playing Barça. While sitting back and maybe hoping Mata or Silva can create something on the break seems like a good strategy, I'm not sure Valencia are willing to go negative, especially at home. No result would surprise me in this one, but I think Barcelona are certainly favorites to win. I think they will by something along the lines of 1-3.

1 comment:

  1. can you believe a girl is reading about football. lol :) i can't help it i love it!

    mandie reed

    ReplyDelete