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FC Barcelona won 4-1 when the sides last met at the Camp Nou / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Valladolid and Barça meet in the first of this weekend’s league matches (4.00 PM CET, GolT and Canal + Liga) in a game where the two opponents face very different challenges. The violet-and-whites need a win to get out of the relegation zone, while FC Barcelona will be provisional Liga leaders if they win, which should put some additional pressure on Real Madrid, who entertain Levante on Sunday. It’s a case of winning and hoping.

But whatever Madrid achieve, a win for Barça would mean their destiny remains in their own hands. Gerardo Martino has taken 18 players with him to the former capital of Spain. The injured Pinto, Cuenca and Dos Santos all stay at home, as does Iniesta for personal reasons, while there are no places for Puyol, Song or Alba either. But Gerard Piqué returns after sitting out the Almeria game through injury.

As is often the case after international breaks, there is uncertainty as to what eleven FC Barcelona will start with. Alves and Neymar only got back on Friday from a long trip to play for Brazil in South Africa, and Martino may decide it would be wiser to start them on the bench.

Valladolid manager Juan Ignacio Martínez has an almost full squad to choose from, with former FCB man Jeffren the only injury concern, while Heinz, Omar and Víctor Pérez have all been dropped. Three points adrift of the safety zone, Valladolid are in desperate need of points to ensure they are still playing top flight football next season.

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