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FC Barcelona face a testing away game against Valencia on Saturday at 4.15pm CET at the Mestalla stadium. The Catalans travel in high spirits having seen off Manchester City with panache in an enthralling game against the English team. However, the turnaround between games has been tight with only two days between games leaving very little time to prepare for this fixture.
Valencia will be looking to maintain the positive start made under new coach, Cesare Prandelli, with last week's victory against Sporting at El Molinón preceding the first home game for the Italian manager.
Luis Enrique oversaw the final training session before Saturday's match at the Mestalla. The coach has had some late withdrawals as Arda Turan and Rafinha join Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba on the sidelines, who picked up injuries on Wednesday. Therefore, the squad will consist of 17 first team players, including fit again Sergi Roberto, and a Barça B player, Carles Aleña.
Prandelli has called up 20 players from a full squad including ex-Barça defender Montoya and Munir el Haddadi, who is on an initial one year loan with an option for Valencia to sign him for 12 million in a permanent deal.
Luis Enrique spoke to the press on Friday and was in a confident mood ahead of Saturday's game. He brushed aside any opportunity to complain about Barça's congested run of games by saying “the fixture list is what it is. I'm not worried because it can't be changed.” The coach spoke of the challenge that a team with a new manager posed to his high-flying team. "We are facing a bit of an unknown Valencia because of the short time since Prandelli took over."
Whilst Prandelli's Valencia may be a bit of an unknown quantity, Lucho has an obvious ace up his sleeve. If Messi delivers another one of his remarkable performances, he is pretty much unstoppable: “Do any managers know how to stop Messi? Pep Guardiola knows him quite well and yet he still scored three goals.”
Prandelli, is well aware of the threat posed by the Argentinian star and spoke about him in glowing terms: “There is no way you can stop Messi. It is fantasy football and the stuff of dreams for every young football fan. It is an honour to play against him.” However, the Italian is looking for defensive solidity from his team to try and get a result against the reigning champions. “We will have to suffer but we will have our moments and we can cause Barça a few problems.”
Barça go into the game in a confident mood on the back of a memorable 4-0 victory against Manchester City in round three of the Champions League group stage. Digging a little deeper, you see that Barça have won five out of six away games this season and haven't lost at Mestalla since a 2-1 reverse on 17 February 2007, with four wins and five draws.
Valencia have struggled so far this season sitting 15th in the table having conceded 15 goals in their first eight games and winning only one of their four home fixtures so far. Defeats to Las Palmas, Betis and Atlético were punctuated by a rare victory against Alavés. The build-up to Valencia's next home game has been dominated by the new managerial appointment, Cesare Prandelli, and the away victory against Sporting last weekend.
HistoryThe pair have met 118 times since their first match in 1924 with a record of 45 wins each and 28 draws. The latest meeting between them was at the Camp Nou in LaLiga, in which Messi scored his 500th career goal. However, the game ended in defeat for the home side as Valencia took all three points with a 2-1 victory, their goals coming from Rakitic (own goal) and Santi Mina. In the corresponding fixture last season, Luis Suárez opened the scoring, before, the Galician Mina scored late on to snatch an away victory from the Catalans.
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