Barcelona conceded their place atop La Liga's table two weeks ago, but last week's draw between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid pulled the Catalans to just one point shy of Los Blancos. And yes, with just 12 games remaining in the season, every... single...point matters down the stretch in a tight title race.
Of course, every point is just as vital for a Real Valladolid squad that is currently in 18th and desperately trying to claw out of the relegation zone. One positive for Real Valladolid in this game? They are at home, where they've lost just three La Liga games.
The downside? They are playing Barca, who have lost just three La Liga games in total and just twice on the road. Let's break down what appears to be a one-sided affair.
When: Saturday at 10 a.m. ET
Saturday at 3 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain
Watch: beIN Sports; beIN Sports Play
Odds: Barcelona (66.2 percent), Real Valladolid (15.5 percent) and draw (18.3 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
To put this matchup into perspective, Real Valladolid have scored 28 goals this season. That's as many as Alexis Sanchez (16) and Lionel Messi (15), Barca's two leading scorers, have tallied combined in La Liga play. For what it's worth, Pedro is also in double digits with 13 goals.
Speaking of Messi—well, the following might worry Barca supporters. From The Associated Press (via the San Francisco Chronicle):
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino says "something is not right" with Lionel Messi after the Argentina forward vomited during an exhibition.
The 26-year-old Messi was doubled over and appeared to be sick during Argentina's 0-0 tie against Romania on Wednesday. Messi is on the roster for Saturday's match at Valladolid. Martino thought Messi had the flu before a 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad nearly two weeks ago.
"This is something he's had for quite some time. I'm not a specialist and so far we haven't figured out what is causing this, but this doesn't affect his play," Martino said Friday. "But something is not right."
Martino said Messi has gone to see a specialist, but that proved inconclusive.
Messi has really struggled with injuries over the past year, a major concern for him heading into the World Cup and a concern for Barca in such a tight title race. Adding a consistent illness into that mix isn't a great sign.
Meanwhile, the other big news of the week came from long-time defender Carles Puyol. From SportsCenter on Twitter:
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol announces he'll leave club at end of season. He has won 21 trophies w/ Barca. » pic.twitter.com/1VieC2yy7I— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 4, 2014
And who will ever forget that mop of hair?
For Real Valladolid to win, Javi Guerra will need to have a bender. The forward has 12 goals (leads team), one assist and a 7.03 average match rating this season (third best on team), via WhoScored. Of course, 15 Barca players have a better average match rating, via the site.
Which team wins?
This one could get ugly.
If Real Valladolid manage to pull off the upset, well...oh, let's be honest, they won't. Barcelona is dramatically better, they are chasing their hated rivals, Real Madrid, in the standings and the embarrassment from losing to a club in 18th place would be too great to bear.
Real Valladolid won't roll over and die at home, but they are simply overmatched. Barcelona wins, 4-0.