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Following the 1-1 draw with Napoli in Thursday’s Europa League fixture and ahead of the return leg in Italy, FC Barcelona have a crunch Liga fixture on Sunday at 4.15pm CET.
The venue is Mestalla, home of a Valencia side that is having another disappointing season by its usual high standards, down in 12th place and without a league win since Christmas.
But that is no reason for complacency. FC Barcelona’s own season has not been going entirely to plan, although there has been a remarkable upturn in results and performances since Xavi Hernández took control of the side.
How it stands
After a dramatic late goal from Luuk de Jong secured a point at Espanyol last week, Barça started another weekend fourth place in La Liga, albeit now only on goal difference ahead of Atlético Madrid.
One would have expected the Catalans to drop to fifth when Atlético hosted bottom of the table Levante midweek, but Diego’s Simeone’s side suffered an shock 1-0 defeat at the Metropolitano.
However, following Saturday's games Atlético are, at least for the moment, ahead of Barça after an impressive 3-0 win at Osasuna, and Villarreal have also moved above the Catalans with a 4-1 victory away to Granada.
Last five games
Feb 17 (E LEAGUE) Barça 1-1 Napoli
Feb 13 (LIGA) Espanyol 2-2 Barça
Feb 6 (LIGA) Barça 4-2 Atlético
Jan 23 (LIGA) Alavés 0-1 Barça
Jan 20 (COPA) Athletic 3-2 Barça
Feb 13 (LIGA) Alavés 2-1 Valencia
Feb 10 (COPA) Athletic 1-1 Valencia
Feb 6 (LIGA) Valencia 0-0 Real Sociedad
Feb 2 (COPA) Valencia 2-1 Cádiz
Jan 22 (LIGA) Atlético 3-2 Valencia
Barça won 3-2 in a real thriller in Mestalla last season, which has an especially mad second half. Leo Messi scored twice and Antoine Griezmann got the other. Here are the highlights as a reminder:
"Valencia like to impose their intense rhythm on the games. It’s going to be a difficult game against a solid side with a great coach. For us, it’s urgent to stay in the Champions League positions. Winning is the only option.”
"I’d prefer to play at 9pm. I’m not complaining, but following such an intense game on Thursday it’s not an ideal situation. But all teams have to face these things.”
"We’re waiting on Memphis. He’s nearly ready so this is a big week for us. We need him up front. As for Araujo, we’re optimistic and if nothing strange happens then he could play.”
“Dembélé might start, or maybe on Thursday. He works hard when he plays.”
"Ilaix [Moriba] was free to decide his future. I think it was a mistake to leave the best club in the world.”
“Frenkie [de Jong] is a great player but I need to rotate my players. But he is not one of me first choices for centre back.”
Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati, Clement Lenglet, Memphis Depay and Alex Balde are all still out through injury, but there was good news on Saturday when Ronald Araujo was declared fit and inamed in the squad of 23.
That eases the difficulties in defence, with both Dani Alves and Gerard Piqué sitting this fixture out through suspension. Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia and Ez Abde are all just one yellow card away from suspensions of their own.
For Valencia, former Barça keeper Jasper Cillessen is out with a calf injury, while Portuguese right back Thierry Correia has also been confirmed as unavailable through injury.
Did you know?
Barça have only lost once in their last 14 league visits to Mestalla.
Valencia may not have a great record against Barça in recent years, but they have scored at least once in every one of the last 13 meetings.
Watch out for Maxi Gómez. He has scored six goals against Barça over the years. In fact, Real Sociedad is the only other team he has netted against that many times.
While playing for Arsenal, Aubemeyang scored four goals against Valencia over the two legs of the semi-finals of the Europa League, including a hat-trick in the game at Mestalla.
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