Both Frank Rijkaard and Quique Sanchez Flores will keep each other guessing ahead of the top of the table clash at the Nou Camp on Sunday
Sundays match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp nou represents the biggest match of the season so far as two of the only three clubs with maximum points face each other in what promises to be a fascinating encounter. At first glance, Barcelona would appear favourites, at home to a side that has just gone through a tumultuous summer.
Valencia, however, have an outstanding record at the Camp nou and have not lost there in the last five seasons. Ahead of the match, Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez admits that “Valencia are always a very tough opponent who always seem to make it very difficult for us at home”
In fact, in the last two championship winning seasons, Barcelona have only lost at the Nou Camp on two occasions, once to Valencia and once to another team that raises their game in the Catalan capital, Atletico Madrid.
Xavi thinks that Valencia “are a great team and they have made a fantastic start to the league and in the Champions league, in spite of their injuries”
And, with reference to the trio of clubs, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla who have all picked up the maximum 9 points this season, Xavi said “ it’s a very tough, very competitive group”.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s clash, the Barcelona midfielder added “it’s a special game for us. The fans know we haven’t beaten them in a long time and we need to put that right”
Its going to be difficult to predict the Barcelona line up ahead of the match now that Rijkaard’s has introduced a rotation policy to his team selections ahead of a very demanding season. Xavi, however, is happy with the competitive edge that this has added to the group and thinks that “ Everyone feels a part of the team and it’s a positive when the Manager knows he can count on the entire group, not just a small core of players”
Valencia, on the other hand, have no such luxury given the extent of injuries that they have suffered recently and the loss of Marchena this week will be felt. There are a number of positives, however, in the Valencia camp and no more so than the renascent Fernando Morientes.
In fact the former Liverpool striker has managed to outshine Valencia’s player of the season last season, and top goal scorer, David Villa.
Villa, on the other hand, is unfazed by any criticism in the Spanish press in which some papers have accused the striker of becoming anxious in front of goal. Villa dismisses such talk as “nonsense”, adding “ Its only been one game since I last scored. I don’t think strikers should get anxious about not scoring, that would be a very bad thing”
Villa remains confident and is fully focused upon Sundays match against “the biggest rival we could face in Europe right now”. He does feel, however, that it is too early to start talking about it being a decisive match in terms of the title.
“Its not decisive. We’ve only just started!”
After only four games, Villa feels that a win “won’t mean that much in the end, but it will be a moral boost to the winner and might help the goal difference at the end of the season”
The Valencia striker will not let talk of his sides record at the Camp nou obscure the fact that “ to get anything there you have to be on top of your game and play almost perfectly as a team. Barcelona can take advantage of the slightest mistake”.
The Asturian centre forward may not be influenced by the statistics but he is bound to take pleasure from the fact that he has scored four goals on his last three visits to the Camp nou.
There are rumours that Quique Sanchez Flores may start the match with Silva and Morientes in attack. Whatever happens, Villa says “ That’s up to the coach"
The striker thinks “it’s a good thing that we have enough quality to be able to mix things up without it affecting the standard of the team”. A very philosophical approach; but you just know that come kick off on Sunday, David Villa will be desperate to add to his nou camp account.