After the defeat against leaders Girona a week ago, FC Barcelona only picked up one point in a 1-1 draw with Valencia FC at the Mestalla and lost further points in the race to defend their title
FC Barcelona had a lot to make up for on matchday 17 of the Spanish league. After losing the top match against Girona (2:4), the Catalans were also beaten in the Champions League at Royal Antwerp (2:3) with a much-changed team.
In Valencia, the aim was to keep the gap to the top, which was already seven points before the matchday, from widening. Xavi rotated back heavily, with only Inaki Pena, Balde, Koundé and Lewandowski starting again compared to the defeat. The hosts also had to make changes – albeit partly out of necessity. Gabriel Paulista (yellow-red) and Guerra (red) were suspended for the 1-0 defeat to Getafe, their fourth league game in a row without a win (0-1-3). Gasiorowski and Foulquier also moved to the bench, while Vazquez, Diakhaby, Hugo Guillamon and Yaremchuk were given the nod by coach Ruben Baraja.
Inaki Pena makes an early save – Lewandowski spectacular
The eleventh-placed team started bravely and almost took the visitors by surprise early on. Barcelona’s entire defensive unit was asleep at a throw-in in midfield. This allowed Lopez to be sent free down the line. The Barça youth player laid the ball back for Yaremchuk, who turned once and took aim at the right corner from 14 meters out, but failed to beat Inaki Pena, who reacted strongly (2nd).
As time wore on, the Catalans began to create more chances but were unable to capitalize. Diakhaby made a crucial deflection against Lewandowski (10th) and also saved Joao Cancelo’s sharp cross (22nd). Lewandowski forced Mamardashvili into several saves, including a side-footed shot (28), and Joao Felix’s diving header from a promising position did not look good (45+1). The score remained goalless at the break in a lively game
Joao Felix breaks the deadlock, but Hugo Guillamon counters
After the break, the Barça chances continued: Lewandowski just missed the target (47′), as did Gündogan’s direct shot shortly afterwards (52′). Shortly afterwards, however, the time had come: after a dream pass from de Jong, Raphinha cleverly crossed to the right of the penalty area, where Joao Felix only had to slot home (55′). The game then became more intense. Fran Perez committed a nasty revenge foul on Gündogan, but got away with a yellow card (65′).
Valencia equalized somewhat out of nowhere in the 70th minute. Hugo Guillamon flicked the ball into the top right-hand corner of the goal to make it 1:1 against a briefly disoriented Catalan rearguard. The Catalans struggled, but in the final phase they were unable to get as many clear shots as before. And so it ultimately remained a draw, with Barça once again dropping points in the title race.
Valencia play at Rayo Vallecano on Tuesday (7pm), Barcelona host UD Almeria on Wednesday (7pm), before a friendly in the US state of Texas against Mexican club CF America on Friday night (3am).