6 Talking Points from Valencia 1-1 Barcelona
To say Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Valencia is probably unfair on the home side.
Los Che took a first half lead through Ever Banega when the midfielder was allowed too much time in the Barca area. His low, drilled shot went through Dani Alves and others, leaving Victor Valdes unsighted.
La Blaugrana were soon level, though.
Pedro Rodriguez was fouled in the area by Joao Pereira, and Lionel Messi's penalty nearly ripped the net.
In the second half, both teams had chances to win it, both teams didn't take them, and ultimately both will be happy with a point.
Here are six talking points the draw has brought under the microscope...
Encouragement for Valencia
Much will focus on Barcelona dropping points, particularly in a weekend that also saw Real Madrid lose, but it shouldn't take away from Valencia's performance.
They have won eight out of nine since Ernesto Valverde took charge, discounting their three meetings in eight days with Real Madrid and tonight's draw with Barca.
Consistency, which they couldn't replicate under the previous regime, now seems to be finding its way back to Los Che.
Not just consistency either: The intensity of their pressing tonight was impressive, although they will still seek to become more clinical in attack.
The performance against Barca was just the latest—the hammering by Madrid aside—reason to think that Valencia will find their way to the fourth spot and the Champions League come the end of the season.
Barcelona Reluctant to Change Their Shape?
It seems cynical to find faults in a side that has performed so well for such a sustained period of time, but once you stop progressing, you can find yourselves reversing.
Defeat to Real Sociedad and draws with Real Madrid and Valencia have hardly broken Barcelona's season, but questions are appearing about a reluctance to change shape and/or personnel.
Whether it is Jordi Roura or Tito Vilanova calling the stops at the moment, the team persists with the 4-3-3—Iniesta left of the front three and Fabregas in the middle.
No doubt this will, and already has, provide success this season, but it is becoming quite the talking point whether Iniesta should be used more centrally, Villa and Thiago should have more playing time or if a 4-2-3-1 would not go amiss every now and again.
Against Valencia, it may have made sense to make more changes following a tough Clasico, but they didn't, nor did they make early changes when some players began to look tired.
Banega's Difficult Week Ends on a High
This week Ever Banega hit the papers after turning up to training late and more worryingly drunk on Friday.
Nevertheless, Ernesto Valverde—maybe due to a lack of options—didn't feel it warranted action on a playing level, and the Argentinean started.
He put in one of his more commanding performances in the white shirt too, justifying his manager's faith in selecting him.
His physical exertion meant he only lasted just over 60 minutes, but during those minutes, he gave Valencia the lead with a calm finish and completed 84 percent of his passes (via whoscored.com).
Victor Valdes Proves a Point
Victor Valdes has been Barcelona's undisputed No. 1 'keeper now for the last ten years.
He has also been at the center of much debate and conversation recently following his announcement that he will not renew his contract when it ends in the summer of 2014.
That considered, he will be happy that any talk of Valdes after the draw with Valencia will be centered, for once, on what a great performance he delivered.
Often criticized outside of Barca, Cules appreciates how good he can be, and a fine performance will be remembered for an instinctive double save when it looked more likely that Valencia were about to nick all three points.
Barca Have a Contrasting Record Against Valencia
You can put a spin on Barcelona's recent history in matches with Valencia to make an argument that they are either like or dislike playing Los Che.
Following two draws at the Mestalla last season, they once again were made to share the spoils in another visit due south of Catalunya.
It was only the second time this season they have been preventing from scoring twice in a La Liga match. The first time?
A 1-0 win at home to Valencia at the start of the campaign.
They are also now undefeated in 13 meetings with Valencia, but to flip that around, following the 1-1 draw, they now have only one win in seven trips to the Mestalla.
Adil Rami the Rock
Adil Ramil—much like Valencia—has struggled for consistency this season.
His performance against Barcelona was good, though, and much more like what we should be seeing from a defender of his size and ability.
The point for Los Che was built on the intensity of their pressing game, but they also had to rely on the presence of Rami and his fellow defenders to maintain their concentration.
The Frenchman certainly did that.
He made three tackles, five interceptions and eight clearance—four of which were effective (via whoscored.com).
If Rami maintains his consistency, glances will turn to Roberto Soldado, who continues to spurn one too many chances.