After an encouraging victory over Real Sociedad last weekend, Barcelona returns home to host Real Valladolid in the third round of La Liga. Xavi’s team seemingly starts to gain the momentum that was expected from them previously and will look to claim their second victory of the season against the newly promoted Castilian side.
The Valladolid-based outfit finished second in the Segunda División last season, and was undisputedly one of the prominent sides of the second tier, especially in their attacking play. Of course, adjusting their style of play to the first division will be a challenge for them, given the difficulty for newly promoted teams to find success the way they played in a lower-quality league.
When Ronaldo, the Phenomenon, bought majority stakes in the club in 2018, the club started to rise, with the aim of establishing themselves as a first-division team, breaking a several years periods of suffering in the second division. During his tenure, only last year did the team play in the Segunda, after a horrible, underperforming season in 2020-21, but now, they are back in the place they deserve.
Of course, surviving in the top-flight Spanish football is a difficult task, especially for a newly-promoted side, but I believe they have the chance to remain in the league, avoiding the state of constant lifting between the second and the first tier.
Indeed, their season did not start so well, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how difficult their August calendar is. One point versus Villareal and Sevilla isn’t such a shameful result, but they will surely look to correct their meager early form against us tomorrow.
Talking about Barcelona, things are getting on the right track, both on and off the pitch. The team pulled off an incredible comeback against Sociedad last Sunday, where the substitutions, led by Ansu Fati, changed the dynamics of the game and won the match for the Blaugranas.
On the other hand, the problems around the registration of players are getting solved as the club finally completed the registration of Jules Koundé, following player departures and further wage reductions to create space to register the new signing for the 2022-23 season of La Liga. The French international, who already participated in the friendlies against Pumas and Manchester City, is now ready to make his league debut in front of the Camp Nou faithful.
Talking about defenders, the identity of the fullbacks is a matter of question. Against City, Sergi Roberto featured as the right-back, and he produced a decent performance there, which could reportedly earn him a place in the starting XI against Valladolid.
On the left-hand side, what the fans were waiting for years, finally seems to happen. In the name of Alejandro Baldé, the Catalans have an alternative for Jordi Alba, who – in absence of a proper replacement – played the vast majority of games, no matter how well he played as he remained unchallenged in his position. Against Real Sociedad, the young Baldé has shown that he is ready to challenge for the starter spot, which he can most probably enjoy on Sunday.
In the midfield, Busquets’s position is still unquestionable, unless Xavi opts to use a double pivot like he did against Sociedad, in a different, rather unique setup. I feel that this change was reasonable in the absence of the veteran Spaniard, but now, we will see if the coach plans with this system in the long term or was just a one-off experiment.
So far, the Pedri-Gavi duo seems to be Xavi’s preferred option in the center of the field, but in the past two games, Frenkie de Jong showed us his incredible talent once more and made many change their minds on his potential departure away from the Camp Nou. With that, he is my favorite to start, alongside our Golden Boy, Pedri, who has been pivotal to our success since his move to the Catalan capital.
After his stellar cameo against the Basques, Ansu Fati is also expected to get some minutes, following cautious doses of game time to slowly rebuild his fitness, avoiding any rush in his recovery from his relapsed injury. The starboy registered a goal and brace of assists in the game versus Sociedad and showed a clear sign that he is ready for the upcoming challenges.
In the striker position, Lewandowski would be the obvious answer, but in the game against the Citizens, he was rested and did not get any minutes later in the game. So, both Memphis Depay and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang participated in his place, and both managed to score, while they have shown a visible difference in the characteristics of their play. Therefore, Xavi will have the advantage of using the one which fits more into the approach he wants to use against Valladolid tomorrow.
That said, numerous options are available for variating profiles, systems, and concepts to the coach’s satisfaction, while the goal remains simple and clear: to win, and to claim all the three points possible, which, given the modest quality of the opposition, shouldn’t be a problem.