Barcelona v Valencia – Camp Nou at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 2
Barcelona may have produced the best comeback European club football’s ever seen but the Blaugrana’s come-down last weekend saw the Catalans lose top spot in La Liga.
Barca missed chances against Deportivo La Coruna but they were along way from their best when going down 2-1 in Galicia, their first loss in the league for 20 fixtures. Real Madrid promptly took charge at the top of the table.
Strange as it may sound, the defending La Liga champions weren’t all that fantastic against PSG in the 6-1 victory and there was a strange sense that the 3-4-3 employed to give Barcelona a boost in full-back areas hadn’t quite clicked.
Lionel Messi appeared crowded out at the Camp Nou in the Champions League and Neymar – instrumental lately – was absent through suspension at the weekend. There was also no Samuel Umtiti, the defender who has won every league game he has played.
Barcelona expected to return to form
Perhaps they were exhausted and some climb-down was unavoidable, the inevitable low that follows the high of a lifetime, and the headlines all featured hangovers. But those key personnel are expected back on Sunday night and the hosts are being well backed to blast their way back to life.
The Catalans have won their last six at Camp Nou, scoring 4.1 goals per-game – Luis Enrique seems likely to reemploy the preferred 4-3-3 shape with Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba given the full-back roles with the emphasis to get forward and attack Valencia.
The visitors have won just twice in 22 fixtures against Barca but gave the Blaugrana an awkward evening when the two teams met in October. Under Cesare Prandelli’s charge, Los Che were only beaten by a late penalty.
The resurgence under the Italian soon dissipated and he resigned to be replaced by Voro, who has at least dragged them away from relegation difficulties into the relative comfort of mid-table.
Valencia’s form, though, remains unsettled and they tend to produce their best work in the Mestalla. Real Madrid were beaten by Los Che only a few weeks ago but the Bats’ only success at top-half sides came at Villarreal.
The guests have lost eight of their 14 games on the road this campaign but have at least managed to net in all but five of their La Liga matches this term. And with Enzo Perez returning from suspension, Valencia do boast the ability to keep this contest competitive.
Valencia to stay competitive
Barcelona have been handed a -2.5 handicap here – it’s a hurdle they’ve passed in 28/51 (55%) Camp Nou outings under Luis Enrique but it still seems a little steep here.
Considering Valencia have suffered a sole reverse in 33 away days since the start of last season by three goals or more, I’m happier siding with the underdogs with a decent Asian Handicap start. Valencia +2.5 has paid out in nine of their past 10 visits to Madrid or Barcelona.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Valencia +2.5 at 2.04
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