EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews Saturday night's Copa del Rey final from Seville as Barcelona lock horns with Valencia.
Barcelona v Valencia | Saturday 25th May 2019, 20:00 | Eleven Sports
This season all Barcelona cared about was conquering the Champions League and regaining their crown as Europe’s best – even Lionel Messi spoke positively and publicly about his and the Catalans’ aims and aspirations of 2018/19. So there’s been a sense of depression lingering around the Camp Nou since their shocking defeat to Liverpool.
Appearing to lack a little motivation since their Anfield disaster, head coach Ernesto Valverde is adamant, “the cup will be different” as Barca aim for back-to-back doubles. Despite winning La Liga by a cumulative 25 points over the past two campaigns –losing just four league fixtures – there’s still a slight hollowness to their domestic domination, as daft as it sounds.
There’ll be no street parties and unlikely to be any victory parades ending in Placa del Doctor Ignasi Barraquer this weekend. The Blaugrana will of course be eager, motivated and focussed but wounds remain raw and the majority of stricken squad will no doubt be keen to sign-off from club commitments after another labour-intensive term.
Reasons to oppose a cushy Barcelona success
Of course, the Copa del Rey final isn’t an inconvenience – there’s silverware on the line – but there are many reasons to oppose Barcelona from racking up a cushy success against Valencia. For starters, the match will be taking place in the searing Seville heat at the Estadio Benito Villamarin – temperatures could be as hot as 35 degrees Celsius at kick-off.
Plus, there’s a host of key players absent or doubtful ahead of Saturday night’s showdown. Luis Suarez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ousmane Dembele are definitely unavailable, whilst Nelson Semedo, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur have not been at 100% over the past week. The suggestion also remains that Valverde could be axed if victory is not achieved.
What’s more, these two teams have been well-matched since Valverde and Valencia boss Marcelinho arrived in their hot-seats at the beginning of 2017/18. The pair have played out three draws in four La Liga contests with Los Che arguably edging both meetings this season with Messi once more the difference-maker when on the field.
Valencia conclude their campaign on a high
Valencia do arrive in decent nick. Marcelinho’s men exited the Champions League early and had registered only four victories from their opening 18 in La Liga, leaving the club only four points above the relegation zone. The hierarchy resisted the urge to remove Marcelinho and their patience was rewarded with Los Che finding their finishing boots from January.
Valencia’s upturn allowed them to close a 10-point gap to fourth and secure Champions League football with a thrilling finale to the campaign. Saturday night’s underdogs returned W11-D5-L3 in their final 19 outings, as well as reaching the Europa League semi-finals, with the in-form strike pairing of Santi Mina and Rodrigo Moreno finished with a real flourish.
Like Barcelona, Valencia have their faults, particularly in defence. But the mood around Mestalla is buoyant and this match really matters to the club. Winning the cup, in their centenary season, their first trophy since winning this competition in 2008, would be huge. At the club's training ground this week, a banner had been put up by fans: “No one beats us for desire: let's got for this” – and they really will.
The betting angle
Valencia have won just twice in 29 meetings with Barcelona coming into this contest and boast just a W1-D6-L7 record against Spain’s big three across all competitions under Marcelinho. However, his team are rarely opened up and across La Liga and the Copa del Rey have suffered only five defeats in 92 domestic duels by more than a one-goal margin.
That record for avoiding heavy defeats includes just three losses by at least two goals in 14 fixtures with Barca, Real Madrid or Atletico. And considering Barcelona have won just eight of 29 games outside of the Camp Nou this term by that two-goal margin or better, there’s real scope to support Valencia with a +1.25 Asian Handicap start at 8/11 (Matchbook).
Backing this bet sees us earn a half-stakes profit should Barcelona win by exactly one goal in 90 minutes, with a full-stakes pay-out delivered should Valencia avoid defeat. The only way in which our stake will be lost is if the Catalans take top honours by at least a two-goal margin.
Barcelona v Valencia – Valencia +1.25 Asian Handicap (8/11 Matchbook)