Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 December 2017

Leaders Valencia on mission at Nou Camp

Pete Jensen

THE two-horse race widely predicted in Spain has been gatecrashed by leaders Valencia and this evening Unai Emery takes his team to the Nou Camp, where Barcelona's form this season has been unconvincing, determined to further their title credentials.

Valencia have dropped just two points so far and are showing no signs of missing the man they face this evening, David Villa.

Barca were beaten in their first home game against newly-promoted Hercules and, after narrowly beating Sporting Gijon, they could only to draw with Mallorca.

The leaders are boosted by a newly laid surface, the possible return of several key players and the goalscoring omens that favour their strikers.

Villa, who has a habit of scoring against former teams, has promised he will not celebrate if he scores against the team who, he said this week, "helped make him as a player."

The former Mestalla favourite scored six times in 10 games against former clubs, Zaragoza and Sporting Gijon, while a Valencia player.

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, could not have been clearer ahead of Real Madrid's trip to Malaga as he declared: "I do not want any players. I want to finish the season with the players I started with."

Real Madrid have been linked with a striker as Mourinho made a startling comparison between Gonzalo Higuain and Didier Drogba this week, when he said Drogba would win "10 out of 10 long balls forward and Higuain one in 10".

But, it seems, any addition to his strikeforce will have to wait until the end of the season, although he joked yesterday when asked if his desire for no new additions extended to next season: "Who knows, maybe they will get rid of me before then."

Malaga are joint top-scorers in the top flight in Spain with 12 goals, but a leaky defence has seen them concede as many as they have scored and they are without a win at home.

In Italy, fourth-placed AC Milan face fifth-placed Chievo tonight, with vice-president Adriano Galliani telling fans it would be difficult for them to resign the gifted Brazilian midfielder, Kaka.

Milan tackle Real Madrid on Tuesday night and, with Real's new signing, the German international Mesut Ozil, performing well in Kaka's position, the Brazilian -- who should be fit again by the turn of the year -- would struggle to get back into the team.

Another former Barcelona striker proving there is life after the Nou Camp is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has netted five of Milan's last six goals and will be joined by a recalled Ronaldinho tonight.

Samuel Eto'o has scored 11 of Internazionale's goals this campaign and leads their attack tomorrow away to Cagliari. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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