Real Madrid may possess the players, the desire and the mathematical possibility to win this season’s Primera Liga title, but, with six rounds remaining, that’s not enough. To catch Barcelona, they’re going to need a little help from those around them.
But, where is this help going to come from? Options are quickly diminishing. They would have had high hopes that the league’s third best team, Seville, would have slowed Barca’s march to the title in midweek. This didn’t happen. Not even a little. The Rojiblancos were on the receiving end of pistol whipping at the Camp Nou, with Andres Iniesta dominant and Leo Messi not even required.
So, what about Spain’s fourth best team? Does Valencia have a better chance of stopping Barcelona than Seville did?
My initial answer to this question was – no. No, they haven’t. Anyone who saw the way that Barca tore apart the boys from Andalusia wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that there isn’t a team in Europe capable of halting them at the moment. Except perhaps, for Chelsea. But that’s another debate for another time.
But then I sat down and really thought about it. Call me a naive optimist, but I’ve come to think that Los Che have a crazy chance to steal the three points on Saturday night in what promises to be an absolute belter at the Mestalla.
Why? Momentum for one thing. Since the club secured a loan which allowed them to resume paying their employees, they’ve won five straight and are unbeaten in six. They’re up into fourth, only two points from third. They’re a happy team at the minute, playing exciting and fearless football.
Their attacking options for another. They won’t have Joaquin, but they will have the vision and passing ability of David Silva, the pace and dynamism of Juan Mata, and the finest striker in Spain – David Villa.
There’s a reason every team in Europe wants him. The man with the nickname El Guaje is the full package. A born goal scorer, he’s fast, strong, intelligent, great with both feet and he loves the big stage. He will have watched the way Kun Aguero terrorised the Barcelona defense in Atletico’s 4-3 triumph earlier this season and will be looking to do the same.
The trouble is, he may need to score a hat-trick for his team to have a chance. You see, Valencia’s biggest problems are in defense. Their back four are, on paper, as average as, or maybe even worse than, Seville’s. Whilst the likes of Asier Del Horno, Alexis, Hedwiges Maduro and Raul Albiol are capable of striking fear into the hearts of supporters, it’s usually their own, not the oppositions. They’ve been better of late, but this weekend they’ll be up against a team with attacking weaponry second to none.
They can’t afford to concede an early goal. If they can keep Messi and Co. at bay for, say, the first five minutes, they’ll have won half the battle. Barca crave early goals, and they’re extremely good at getting them. Valencia will have to be on their toes form the very first whistle.
Valencia may not be the favourites in this one, but by no means should they be written off. They’ve got the form, the fans and the firepower to get a win against a Barcelona team who will surely have one eye on their upcoming Champions League semi-final with Chelsea. Real Madrid will be watching from their hotel room in Seville, hoping they do just that.