Valladolid vs. Barcelona: Complete Preview and What to Expect
Barcelona will travel to face 10th-place Valladolid on Saturday. The game is sure to be an exciting one to end 2012 La Liga action for both clubs.
However, Valladolid are having a strong season based their standards. La Pucela are sitting in the middle of the table, but have been fortunate enough to only lose two games at home this season (via fcbarcelona).
Let's look ahead to Saturday's action, shall we?
No Tito Vilanova
Barcelona received horrific news Wednesday when it was discovered that manager Tito Vilanova had suffered a relapse after being cancer free for over a year (per Daily Mail).
The Catalan manager has overseen a history-making season for La Blaugrana.
Barcelona has broken the record for the best start to a La Liga season by going undefeated thus far. Barcelona also won their Champions League group and are soaring through the Copa del Rey.
Goal has reported that Vilanova's surgery, which took place on Thursday, has gone according to plan. He will now face approximately six weeks of chemotherapy that could allow him to resume coaching soon.
No doubt Barcelona will miss their manager. But Vilanova's assistant, Jordi Roura, will step in during his absence, leaving Barcelona in capable hands.
Manucho Will Be Dangerous
Real Valladolid has been very impressive this season. But no one has been as impressive for them than star striker Manucho.
The former Manchester United forward has seen great success after leaving the Red Devils. His highlight of the season is certainly the brace he scored against Real Madrid a few weeks ago that nearly won the game for Valladolid (via Goal).
Manucho possesses very strong heading ability and is always the target man off of corners and set pieces.
As luck would have it, that is the exact weakness of the Barcelona side he will be facing. The sheer physicality Manucho uses in games will give the Catalan back line a headache.
If Manucho can score a brace against Real Madrid, there is no reason he cannot score against Barcelona. But, just because he can does not mean he will necessarily do so.
Barcelona Must Get Help from the Wings
If the early-season weakness for Barcelona was defense, the current weakness is their wing play.
To be completely honest, none of the Blaugrana wingers are playing that well lately. David Villa is struggling to show why he should start and has not been scoring lately. His pace and touch have also not been present.
Alexis Sanchez and Pedro are also struggling to score. Both are creating chances, but it is time Lionel Messi gets help scoring before the club become too dependent on him.
Cristian Tello may very well be the best winger currently on the team.
The 21-year-old is fast and certainly capable of taking on defenders. His passing is not all there yet, but his scoring ability is beginning to show signs of something wonderful. However, he needs more consistent play to hone his skills.
But, the outstanding winger of the season, is not really a winger at all.
Andres Iniesta has been moved to the left wing over recent months and seems to have gotten even better as a player. He is creating chances and making deadly attacks on the defense.
There really is no guessing who will start on the wings for Barcelona. Every player needs more minutes and frankly no one deserves a consistent starting spot right now.
Iniesta could start on the left wing again, but with Cesc Fabregas out injured, Iniesta is more needed in the midfield. That is, unless 21-year-old Thiago gets a well-deserved start.
Barcelona Will Start Their Strongest XI
There is simply no reason for Barcelona to not field their strongest lineup. The holiday begins after this weekend and every player will receive plenty of rest.
La Blaugrana will certainly want to remain undefeated to end 2012 and what better way to ensure that happens than to play the best player you have.
Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and company should all start giving Valladolid a lot to handle.
No matter how great of a season Valladolid is having, they are still going to play the best team in the world. If the Catalan giants do play their best players, Real Valladolid stand little to no chance at winning the game.
With a long break coming up and Barcelona nearly 100 percent healthy, Valladolid will be staring down a well-oiled Barcelona machine on Saturday.
Barcelona Will Win for Tito
There is no denying that Barcelona is a team of professionals. With their beloved manager missing from the sidelines, the players will be playing for him.
If there is anything that can make Barcelona even more dangerous, it is giving them something to play for.
Tito Vilanova will certainly be watching from his hospital bed, and the players know it. They will seek to impress him and show their manager that he is very important.
This could lead to a very ugly night for Valladolid, who may simply be a innocent target for the perfect storm leading up to a Barcelona thrashing.
I predict a 4-0 win in favor of Barcelona.
Carles Puyol and the defense will be stronger than ever and not want to concede on the last game of the year, while the attack will be brutal for a less-than-capable Valladolid defense.
Of course, Messi should score. He may even get another brace that would take his total to nine straight games with a brace. But my surprise prediction is that both Carles Puyol and David Villa will score in this game.
What do you guys think? Will Barcelona run away with this one? Or will Manucho and company make things hard? Don't forget to leave your comments below!
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