Barcelona will be aiming to keep the good times rolling in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday when they host a Valencia side struggling for form.
Copa del Rey
1 February 2018
Kick-off: 22H30 local time
Venue: Camp Nou
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Barcelona 55 28 15 12
Valencia 55 12 15 28
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 31, 2018
Valencia 1-1 Barcelona 26/11/17 (La Liga)
Valencia goalscorers: Rodrigo (60')
Barcelona goalscorers: Jordi Alba (82')
Players to watch:
The monster double act of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez has torn through Spanish defences throughout the campaign and it would take courage to bet against them scoring against Los Che, who let in four against Real Madrid at the weekend. Messi has bagged 27 goals in 32 games, while Suarez sports 18 goals in 29 games across all competitions.
The visitors will be pinning their hopes on the likes of Rodrigo to continue his fine run of form. The 26-year-old striker has netted 12 goals and provided five assists in 26 appearances, and also found the back of the Barca goal in November.
Team form and manager quotes:
The Blaugrana's phenomenal season has continued into the new year as they opened up an 11-point lead at the top of La Liga. Ernesto Valverde's side remain unbeaten in the Spanish top flight and are on a seven-game winning streak.
Their only blip was in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals when they lost 1-0 to Espanyol in the first leg, before bouncing back with a 2-0 win in the second leg to claim a spot in the last four.
The Catalan giants come into the clash on the back of a 2-1 comeback win over Alaves, which saw a crucial contribution from their veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta. The 33-year-old Spaniard produced a cross full of finesse to pick out Luis Suarez for the equaliser, and Valverde was delighted with his display.
He told the press: "The truth is that we have good players who play in the interior role, but Iniesta is a master at that. I thought he could help us from there. It was important not to get too many of us in the Alaves box. It would have provoked counter-attacks.
"For that we needed players who move well in space like Leo and him. It was an extraordinary move and the goal let us breathe."
Meanwhile, Valencia have experienced a slight dip in form of late, losing two of their last three games in all competitions, and needed penalties to squeeze past Alaves in the quarter-finals of the cup competition last week.
However, Los Che remain one of the strongest teams in Spain this term and sit third in the league standings, six points adrift Atletico Madrid. They will also take heart from the fact that they beat Barca at Camp Nou only two years ago, when an Ivan Rakitic own-goal and a Santi Mina strike led them to a 2-1 triumph.
Valencia manager Marcelino suggested recently that he would prioritise fighting for the Copa del Rey instead of the league.
He was quoted by Marca as saying: "The next few weeks will be very important for the Copa, but not quite as much for La Liga. We must give our all to both tournaments with the squad that we have at our disposal, especially as we do not have European football."
The team that books their place in the Copa del Rey final, will face the winner of Leganes and Sevilla, whose first-leg clash will get underway on Wednesday night.
? Marcelino: “We are going to Barcelona with the resolve to get a good result.” ?
— Valencia CF English (@valenciacf_en) January 31, 2018
Barca expect Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to return to the starting line-up, but Philippe Coutinho is a doubt.
Geoffrey Kondogbia and Ezequiel Garay should be ready to play for the visitors, but Goncalo Guedes is sidelined through injury.