La Liga Preview: Real Valladolid v Barcelona
By Football News
After a run of one win in 10 league matches, there are few teams struggling Real Valladolid would like to face less than Barcelona.
However, it is the reigning La Liga champions who visit Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday, when Gerardo Martino's men will be confident of climbing to the top of the division - at least overnight.
With Real Madrid not playing until Sunday, Barca can go two points clear at the summit, but the Camp Nou outfit's form has become far more difficult to predict in recent weeks.
Barca - currently two points ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid - got their season off to a flyer, winning 16 of their opening 18 league matches.
However, Barca have now won just four of their last eight in La Liga, raising doubts over the club's title-winning credentials this time around.
Despite a shaky record of late, Valladolid are a side who will hold no fear for Barca, with the Catalans having registered eight consecutive victories against the relegation strugglers.
A tally 74 of goals places Barcelona at the top of the goalscoring charts for the five major European leagues, while their total of 15 different goalscorers puts them second behind Arsenal and Ajax.
The big news at Barcelona this week has been the announcement that club captain Carles Puyol is to leave at the end of the season.
The 35-year-old defender has enjoyed an extremely successful career with the Catalan club, winning six La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League crowns, but has been plagued by injury problems this term.
That said, Puyol played a full 90 minutes in Sunday's 4-1 victory over Almeria and even got his name on the scoresheet seven minutes from time, but is reportedly not in contention to play this weekend.
Despite the quality that Barca possess, Juan Ignacio Martinez believes his charges can spring an upset.
"We know it will be difficult, very difficult, but we have more options at home," he is quoted as saying by the club's official website. "It is essential to look at ourselves, take the few chances...and compete for 90 minutes."
Jonathan dos Santos (knee) remains sidelined for Barcelona, while Gerard Pique (calf) is a doubt.
Jeffren (hamstring) is likely to miss out for the hosts.