Barcelona vs. Valencia: 7 Points to Discuss After the Camp Nou Encounter
Full time, Barcelona 1-0 Valencia.
Another very close match between last year's second and third-place teams in La Liga.
A golazo from Adriano ended up being the winner, but the final score hardly tells the whole story.
Valencia will feel they could have managed a draw at Camp Nou and really played well enough to deserve one, but play in the final third left them wanting.
Alex Song and Aly Cissokho saw their first action in La Liga. How did they do? Are they proving to be worth their salt yet?
After the match, the standings show that La Blaugrana and Los Che are worlds apart. Valencia sits in 17th place while Barcelona is atop the tables and five points ahead of Real Madrid.
But is the disparity really that great? Are Barcelona truly head and soldiers above their matchday three opponents?
Read on to discuss these issues and more as we review Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Valencia.
All stats courtesy of Who Scored.
Solid Performances from the New Signings
Aly Cissokho and Alex Song both got their first starts in La Liga in this one and both impressed in their debuts.
The Valencia left back was brought in after Los Che had tried a number of other options, including Didac Vila and Natxo Monreal.
If his first game in white is a sign of things to come, Valencia will have made the right decision by bringing the Frenchman to La Mestalla.
Cissokho was perhaps Valencia's best player on the night, as he was a big reason Barcelona struggled on offense.
He made sure Barça's wide men were spread out and forced them to put the ball in the air. Knowing the height advantage Los Che holds, forcing their opponents to rely on crosses instead of letting them dribble in proved to be a great tactic.
The left back did let Pedro behind him early on, but for most of the match he kept Pedro, Sanchez, and Alves quiet.
It is obviously very early, but Cissokho already looks like an upgrade defensively at the position.
Barcelona's new midfielder showed a lot of promise, as well.
Song showed a physical side that La Blaugrana have been missing for some time. Knowing how Valencia likes to take advantage of Barcelona's lack of height, his stature was a valuable tool as well.
He cut off a number of passes from Valencia whenever Barça were dispossessed and were vulnerable to the counter.
The Cameroonian looked very comfortable in Barcelona's pass-happy midfield and managed to complete 91% of his passes on the evening.
Both Song and Cissokho earned a lot of confidence from their team and their managers, which can only help them in the future.
Fabregas Struggles Continue
Cesc Fabregas did little to dodge the early criticism being sent his way from the Barça faithful.
Against Valencia, the former La Masia starter continued his early season struggles by having a rather poor showing at home.
Barça's no. 4 continued to show his lack of disciplined in midfield as he consistently found himself overlapping his wingers and leaving his midfield vulnerable on the counter.
Fortunately for Barcelona, Alex Song and Xavi worked hard to clean up in midfield. Alexis Sanchez also gave a solid defensive performance when he was off the ball or not part of an attack.
Fabregas's poor performance was encapsulated by his two misses in front of goal.
On the first, Lio Messi dribbled around Valencia's central defense before leaving the ball for Cesc with only Alves to beat.
In the end, a chipped effort from Cesc hit the outside of the post and was cleared out of danger.
Later, Fabregas was given a great opportunity when Sanchez sent a superb cross to his feet, but the midfielder blasted the ball over goal and left his team with a one-goal lead.
Neither effort was a sitter and Los Che did well to close quickly and pressure Fabregas, but he certainly should have done more, especially with his second shot.
There is no need for panic with Cesc likely still a bit tired from the Euros this summer, but the team will need better from him as the season wears on.
Soldado Right to Be Frustrated
Going against Barcelona, Roberto Soldado knows that chances will be few and far between. That is why Valencia works so hard on the counter attack to feed their striker when he gets into position.
Unfortunately for Soldado, his teammates most responsible for giving him the chance to score had poor outings.
Andres Guardado worked hard to start every counter attack and was tireless off the ball, but his passing was poor and he lost more balls than he used to create chances.
Sofiane Feghouli had a poor outing and received a strong reprisal from Soldado for being greedy in one of the better chances on the night.
After getting behind Adriano in the box, the midfielder tried to score from a nearly impossible angle instead of giving the ball off to Soldado who had gotten into position to finish the attack.
The effort was sent a couple dozen feet above the goal and the striker made sure his frustration was known.
Valencia's Flop of the Match
The biggest disappointment of the night, however, was Jonas. After two solid performances to start the season, the Brazilian had a very bad night against Barcelona.
The forward was desperate to get time on the ball, but never managed to get himself into the right position. His passing bordered atrocious and he failed to get a single shot on goal.
Against Barcelona, Valencia relies heavily on the counter attack and the play in the final third was really lacking in this match.
The midfielders did a fine job pressing Barça's midfield, but the link-up play from the first pass on the ball to Soldado was nowhere near good enough.
It is no wonder the striker was so frustrated after the match.
Still Not Enough Scoring Threats for Barça
It was great to see Adriano score such a beauty, especially after last week.
But when the Brazilian fullback is the team's second-biggest scoring threat, fans should be a bit worried.
Right now, Barcelona have a shortage of legitimate goal-scorers. They have many players who can create chances, but not enough people to finish them.
Almost every attacker can get into positions to score, but everyone besides Messi struggles to convert.
This results in Messi once again having to do too much. This makes it easier to plan against from a defensive perspective and we saw that with Valencia—read how later on.
La Blaugrana need to figure out how to get more goals from the rest of their front line or else a repeat of last season could be in order—when their biggest offensive struggles come late in the season and in the biggest matches.
Barcelona went all of last season without finding a way to take pressure of Lionel Messi.
They had lost three of their four best forwards to injury for most of last season, so it seemed as though that problem would be solved simply by having David Villa and Pedro fit.
So far, that has not been the case and the attack is still far too reliant on Messi. Will David Villa prove to be the solution to this problem?
Perhaps Tito Vilanova should consider moving Villa into the central role to bring a threat from distance and give Messi more room against fewer defenders.
Of course, we have seen in the past that Messi does not really like to get moved out of the central role so the chances of that happening are not great.
Maybe this is the area where Vilanova can make his greatest mark on the team.
Excellent Defensive Display from Los Che
The attack may have failed and the attacking midfielders disappointed, but the back line of Los Che was fantastic at Camp Nou.
Led by Adil Rami, Valencia's defense was brilliant in directing Barcelona's attack and showed tremendous discipline throughout the match.
Cissokho and Pereira
The fullbacks worked very hard to not give the inside lane to Barça's wingers and forced them out wide all night.
Cissokho and Pereira made sure not only to force the hosts to put the ball in the air often, but also worked very hard to make themselves available on the counter attack.
Stout in the Middle
The central defense was equally impressive as they made Barcelona uncomfortable all night.
The individuals will not receive a lot of praise because of the final score, but the collective effort of Adil Rami, Tino Costa, Victor Ruiz, and David Albelda was wonderful.
All night, Barcelona was forced to either spread play too wide or shoot from distance. With no serious long-range threat and not many players willing to take that chance, Valencia was happy to let the hosts try their luck against Diego Alves.
In the end, it was a long-ranged effort from Adriano that decided the bout, but the golazo was almost unstoppable and should not reflect poorly on the defense.
Deserving of a Draw
It is quite telling that five of the six best passers on the night were positioned defensively for Los Che.
David Albelda was the only one who really struggled since he was tasked with marking Messi all night, but in the end La Liga's leading goal-scorer was left without a goal so the collective success outweighs any individual struggles in the match.
There was little to be done against Adriano's great striker, but aside from that goal, Valencia's defense held one of the greatest attacks in football out of goal and that shows how great the defense was at Camp Nou.
Barça Far from Their Best, but Still Atop La Liga
What is more telling about Barcelona heading into the break?
The fact that Barcelona have yet to hit full stride and have many concerns or the fact that they've won all three matches despite that fact?
Set pieces are a problem, the fullbacks aren't doing enough to prevent balls getting into the box, the central defense is too narrow and lacks support, and the attack continues to struggle.
But despite all that, Barcelona are in first place with a full nine points won from three matches. They are the only team in the league to have won every match and now have a five-point lead over their rivals, Real Madrid.
How Concerned Should Barça Be?
The biggest worry going forward is that most of the biggest problems in Catalunya are left over from last season and may not be easily solved with the current squad.
On defense, there is no clear answer to the poor positioning and vulnerability on set pieces. Carles Puyol cannot and should not be expected to be the answer.
The fullbacks are both very attack-minded and continue to leave their central defenders without enough support on counter attacks.
Tito Vilanova needs to figure out how to best utilize Jordi Alba and Dani Alves in attack without leaving his back line exposed.
Will too many points be dropped before Barça finds the answers?
More importantly, how long can Barcelona stay on top of Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga with so many problems persisting?
Valencia Desperate to Find Form
As it stands, Valencia is in 17th place with just two points won from their first three matches.
Los Che entered the season felling confident in their new signings and trusting that new manager Mauricio Pellegrino would keep them in third place.
So far, the pieces have not quite fit together and Valencia is struggling for consistency.
Not in Crisis Mode... Yet
Although they have yet to win a match, there are plenty of positives for Los Che to take away from their first three matches.
They started the season by drawing the reigning champs and really outplaying Real Madrid for most of the match. They also matched Barcelona for the majority of their latest encounter.
Not only did they go toe-to-toe with the best La Liga has to offer, they did so away from La Mestalla.
However, against an inferior team in Deportivo, Valencia showed a lack of concentration and implied that the inability to close out matches that hurt them so much last season may not have been remedied yet.
The lack of points is obviously worrying, but we still have to keep things in context. They managed to draw Madrid and almost took points from Barcelona despite not being at full strength in either match.
Adil Rami played his first match of the season at Camp Nou and it was already clear how valuable he is to the club.
The preferred midfield grouping has yet to play together with Sergio Canales and Ever Banega still reeling from injury.
Once the team gets to full health, they should be able to string a few victories together and get back near the top of the tables. But they better do it quickly!
With Atletico Madrid looking incredibly dangerous, Malaga already exceeding expectations, and the rest of the league looking very balanced, Valencia will not get many chances to make up lost ground.
The level of competition after the big two is very high this season and Valencia cannot be seen as favorites at the moment.
There is no need to panic just yet, but Los Che certainly need to start winning soon or else they'll find themselves out of Champions League qualification next summer.