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Pucela face huge task in Monday night clash

LaLiga Santander

Matchday 29

Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Monday April 5th, 2021

F.C. BARCELONA (3rd, 62 points) vs REAL VALLADOLID (16th, 27 points)

Two teams with contrasting fortunes in the league clash at Camp Nou in the Monday night fixture for Matchday 29, as title chasing Barcelona play host to a Real Valladolid side desperate for points in their fight to stave off relegation.

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona are in the midst of a resurgence, winning 15 of their last 18 matches and drawing the remaining three. It has seen them charge up the league table as far as second place, having struggled earlier in the season where they occupied 13th spot after Matchday 10. The once insurmountable distance between the Blaugranas and table-topping Atlético Madrid has been reduced to a mere four points and Barcelona were one place behind Diego Simeone’s side going into the international break. Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over S.D. Eibar on Saturday temporarily elevated Los Blancos into second place pending the outcome of tonight’s match.

The Catalans are hitting their stride at the right moment, while Atlético appear to be panicking as their lead at the summit has evaporated over recent weeks. Barcelona signalled their intention to challenge for the title until the bitter end with a devastating 6-1 win over recent Copa del Rey winners Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena. It underlined the firepower available to Koeman, with four different players scoring and two of them – Lionel Messi and Sergiño Dest – hitting doubles. La Real, no slouches themselves sitting fifth in the league, simply had no answer for the attacking barrage they faced on their own soil against the team with the second-best away record in the league.

However, it is at tonight’s venue, Camp Nou, where the Blaugranas have prospered. They have navigated through their last 11 home matches without a defeat, dropping points in just three of them. So far this season only one side, rivals Real Madrid, have left with a victory which further serves to highlight the danger awaiting Pucela.

Overall, their record against Barcelona is extremely one-sided. In 91 matches, they have won 14 (15%), drawn 16 (18%) and lost 61 (67%) with a -135 goal difference. Barcelona has been one of the least fruitful cities in Real Valladolid’s travels, with the Blanquivioletas taking only two wins from their 45 visits. Their first trip to the Catalan capital came in April 1949, at the old Camp de Les Corts, which saw Barcelona run rampant by a score of 6-0. Barcelona have scored six at home against Real Valladolid a further twice, in 1996 (6-1) and 2008 (6-0), as well as inflicting a 7-1 defeat in 1958. Results like these have contributed in no small way to -104 goal difference for Pucela in matches played in Barcelona.

After notching their first victory at Camp Nou in December 1987, their last win in this stadium came ten years later on November 9th, 1997. Croatian coach Sergije Krešić lead Pucela to a 2-1 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s side who would eventually go on to capture the Primera crown that season. Eusebio Sacristán – in his second spell with Real Valladolid having also turned out over 200 times for the Blaugranas – put the visitors ahead after 10 minutes and Krešić’s fellow countryman Alen Peternac added a second five minutes into the second period. Barcelona managed a consolation goal through Juan Antonio Pizzi in the 89th minute to spare the further indignation of being shut out.

Since that night, Real Valladolid have gone on to draw three and lose ten of their subsequent 13 visits to Spain’s largest stadium and are currently on a losing streak of seven, so there is absolutely no underestimating the size of the task facing Sergio’s side tonight. Pucela are undefeated in their last four matches; winning once and drawing three times but were shell-shocked in the 94th minute of their previous match against Sevilla. Goalkeeper Bono scored with the last kick of the match to snatch a 1-1 draw and leave Real Valladolid heartbroken heading into the international break.

One of the most pressing issues which Sergio will have to deal with, over and above the undoubted calibre of their opponents, is the unavailability of several players. Real Valladolid have endured a torrid season where the squad has been decimated by injury and illness on several occasions. Kiko Olivas continues to near a return to action after missing the whole season so far but is still some way from being included in the squad, with Raúl Carnero the other long-term injury absence. There have been few teams afflicted more by Coronavirus than the Blanquivioletas and they laboured through the international break with further positive tests being returned by Míchel Herrero, Luis Pérez, Joaquín Fernández, Kike Pérez and Roberto Jiménez. Although the latter pair have since returned negative tests, they will not feature tonight and the others in that group will also miss out. Central defender Yawad El-Yamiq and right-fullback Pablo Hervías are injured, further adding to Sergio’s defensive headache while, offensively, Fabián Orellana is suspended and Jota has an ankle injury. The one glimmer of light is that Marcos André, out of action since these teams met in December with Barcelona winning 3-0, returns to the squad but Sergio is expected to opt for a single striker – in all likelihood Sergi Guardiola – meaning the Brazilian forward will start the match on the bench.

If the odds were not already stacked against Pucela due to the weight of history and current form, the skeleton squad at Sergio’s disposal makes the task even harder. This match will be a case of damage limitation from the visitors, with upcoming contests against Granada, Elche and Cádiz having more of a bearing on whether or not survival in Primera for next season is attainable.

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