5 Things for Barcelona to Fear Against Valladolid
Barcelona's win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday, coupled with Real Madrid's draw against Espanyol, has given them a lead at the top which neither of Spain's capital city sides look likely to chase down.
This weekend, they finish the calendar year with a visit to newly-promoted Real Valladolid, who are steadily improving under former Valencia defender Miroslav Djukic.
Despite their 100 percent away record, La Blaugrana haven't always made life on the road easy this season. Saturday's visit to Valladolid will present a few things they will need to be wary of...
A former central defender himself, Miroslav Djukic knows all about successful defending—and it is showing.
Valladolid have conceded just 18 goals this season in the league. That's the same amount as Barcelona. Only Osasuna, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Malaga have conceded less.
Not bad for a side promoted from La Segunda last season, who were widely tipped to struggle during their return to Spain's top flight.
Oscar and Ebert
The bulk of Real Valladolid's goals have either been scored, or created by their attacking midfielders. Two in particular, Oscar Gonzalez and Patrick Ebert.
Oscar, 30, returned to the club after spells with Real Zaragoza and Olympiakos, in 2010. This season he has already scored seven goals, though he is the team's penalty-taker, and four assists.
Arriving from Germany this summer, Ebert, 25, has filled the right midfield void left by Sisi's departure to Osasuna. He has filled it well, contributing three goals and four assists so far.
Valladolid's Home Form
Out of eight league matches at the Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla, Valladolid have lost just two, and never by more than a single goal.
Real Betis beat them 1-0 early on in the season and Real Madrid, forced to come from behind, won 3-2 when they visited earlier this month.
Of their other home matches, they have won three and drawn three, boasting a goal difference of plus-8 from those six games.
Javi Guerra had been the club's talisman during their promotion last season, but his lack of goals since has allowed Manucho to step in.
The one-time Manchester United forward is still a long way short of the 40 goals a season he promised when he arrived, but he has scored a few.
In 12 league appearances, the Angolan has managed to net six times—claiming three assists too—with his brace against Real Madrid being particularly memorable.
As well set up as Djukic may have his team, as many goals and assists Oscar, Ebert and Manucho may have between them, none of it will matter should Barcelona play to their potential.
With comments being passed around that the league is already won, Barca will have to be wary of complacency setting in. Although at times, you have to ask, does that word exist within this side?
Either way, that is a danger, and if they do relax against Real Valladolid, it could result in a nice Christmas gift for the two Madrid teams.