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The prospect of a quarter final against Juventus is a very exciting one indeed, but it’s time for us to put all talk of the Champions League aside and focus instead on LaLiga. There are four games before the trip to Turin on April 11, and first of those is on Sunday night at home to Valencia (8.45pm CET, tickets here), a side that may not be having the best of seasons, but that is still capable of beating anyone on their day. Real Madrid found that out just a few weeks ago.
But after the leaders won 2-1 in Bilbao on Saturday, the pressure is on FC Barcelona to make sure they also get three points out of the last weekend before the international break.
Neymar Jr, chasing his 100th official goal for FCB, and his Brazilian compatriot Rafinha are both good to go after sitting out the game at Deportivo last week, while Jeremy Mathieu has also been given the all-clear as well. The only certain absentee is Aleix Vidal, out with a long-term ankle injury.
The full squad for the match is: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, A. Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti. Masip, Arda Turan and Mathieu have been left out by the manager.
Valencia aren’t having much luck going forward, with Rodrigo Moreno, Nani and Santi Mina all side-lined, while midfielder Mario Suarez is also doubtful. Two of the visitors will be especially familiar faces to Barça fans, defender Martin Montoya and striker Munir (the latter on loan).
“Looking back at past encounters, they are an opponent who always cause us problems” said FCB manager Luis Enriquethe day before the match. “Even though they are not high up in the table, they have top class players and will be tough opponents.”
"Barça are always dangerous” offered his Valencia counterpart Voro. “Even when they have an off day, they have players that can make the difference ... But we aren’t scared, it’s just a football match. We have to make sure we get things right to make them feel uncomfortable at home.”
Barça’s 19-match unbeaten run in La Liga came to an end with 2-1 defeat at Riazor last week (view highlights), and the result means they are no longer ’depending on themselves’ as the locals say, referring to the situation whereby even by winning all their remaining matches, a team is not guaranteed that they’ll finish top.
Valencia’s erratic season continues, with recent results ranging from a 2-1 victory against Real Madrid to a 4-0 defeat at home to Eibar. They’re down in 13th and have only won one of their last ten games away from Mestalla.
There’s been a bit of everything in this fixture of late. The glorious 7-0 win in the Copa del Rey semi-final contrasts considerably with two Valencia wins in their last three Liga visits to the Camp Nou.
But it’s a game where Leo Messi tends to shine. In fact, no goalkeeper has conceded as many Liga goals to the Argentine striker than Valencian stopper Diego Alves, who has picked Messi-struck balls out of his net 19 times – including the injury time penalty at Mestalla earlier this season that turned what would have been a dignified away draw into three huge points (view highlights)
As ever, the game is being screened all around the world, but if you can’t see it for whatever reason, then you can always listen to our live English language commentary on Radio Barça (the link will appear on the homepage shortly before kick-off). Don't forget you can also enjoy live updates of all the action on our official Twitter feed.
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