Barcelona will receive the Primera Division trophy after their match with Valladolid on Saturday, but manager Tito Vilanova is keen for his side to maintain their motivation in search of reaching 100 points for the season.
After finally wrapping up the title last week, Barcelona now need to win their remaining three matches in order to match Real Madrid’s record point tally. And Vilanova believes that his players owe it to the fans to keep competing right until the end.
“We have 91 points, and we know we have the chance to reach 100 points,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “We’ll try to win our remaining three matches. The more goals we score, the better. We can’t stop competing, that’s the only thing I wouldn’t like. We owe our fans and we have to finish the season in strong fashion.”
But with the title sealed, Vilanova has brought forward further cancer treatment in New York and will leave on Monday before returning ahead of next week’s match at local rivals Espanyol. Vilanova was absent for 10 weeks receiving treatment earlier in what has been a challenging first season in charge. Yet the former assistant to Pep Guardiola believes it has been a successful campaign, despite a 7-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the Champions League.
“When you win the league title it has to be a good season,” he explained. “From the start we were clear that we wanted La Liga. Could we improve on this season? Absolutely. We always have to be demanding with ourselves, but you can’t always improve on what you did last season.”
Vilanova will be boosted for the visit of Valladolid by the return to fitness of Victor Valdes and Javier Mascherano. Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol remain on the sidelines.
Valladolid are firmly ensconced in midtable but still have an outside chance of a place in the Europa League. Four points separate Miroslav Djukic’s 12th-placed side from Sevilla in eighth, which will yield a spot in Europe if Malaga are unsuccessful in their appeal against a ban from continental competition.
Djukic will be unable to call upon Antonio Rukavina, after the defender received his fifth booking of the campaign in the 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna last time out.
D: Alves, Pique, Adriano, Alba
M: Xavi, Song, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Villa, Tello
Real Valladolid (probable)
D: Sereno, Valiente, Rueda, Balenziaga
M: Rubio, Perez
Ebert, Gonzalez, Larsson
Prediction: There may initially be some sluggishness in the legs of some Barcelona players after their title celebrations in the past week. Valldolid, though, have been in poor form of late -- winning just twice in their last 10 outings -- and are unlikely to be able to dampen the party atmosphere inside the Camp Nou.
Barcelona 3-1 Real Valladolid
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off at 3 p.m. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport 2, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.