Mathieu: No rift with Barca coach

The 31-year-old France international will make a “special” return to the Mestalla for the first time this weekend, having ended his five-year association with Los Che when he joined Barca in the summer.

And he will do so having sought to clear the air with Enrique after comments made by the player in the wake of last month’s Clasico defeat to Real Madrid.

Mathieu admitted he was surprised at being deployed at left-back at the Bernabeu, having impressed at the heart of the Barcelona defence early in the season.

Enrique responded by saying if Mathieu was surprised, “we should all pack up and go home”.

Mathieu addressed the matter at a press conference on Friday lunchtime, and was quoted by the Spanish press as saying: “It was a comment I did not say with any controversy.

“When I signed, we talked about who could play both central and at full-back. I just said that I was surprised to be playing in that position.

“(But) it is the coach who decides, and if he says I have to play there again, I’ll play.”

Valencia had a tough season in 2013/14, finishing eighth, and, although they have picked up only one point from their last two games, they have collected 16 points from a possible 18 on home turf this term.

And Mathieu knows exactly what to expect from Nuno’s side.

“Playing against Valencia will be a special game for me, I will not deny it,” he said.

“Valencia have changed a lot with regards to last season. They have a squad that can do great things.”

Defender Thomas Vermaelen could miss his entire first season with Barca as he requires thigh surgery, but that news was offset by a number of positives over the past week with Lionel Messi having become the all-time leading scorer in both La Liga and the Champions League.

The Argentina forward scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 triumph over Sevilla last weekend to make it 253 goals in 289 league appearances, and bagged another treble in a 4-0 midweek win at APOEL Nicosia to make it 74 goals in Europe’s top club competition.

Mathieu was full of praise for his team-mate, saying: “I can see Messi ending his career at Barca. He is a legend as a player.

“It’s only normal for Messi to play all the time. We need him in every game because he is a very important player.”

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes felt Sunday’s game would provide a good opportunity for his team to make a statement.

“They are a great team and we want to get back to being a top team,” the on-loan Benfica man said on Valencia’s official website. “It’s in these games that we want to show that we are doing well.

“We are playing at home and will do everything possible to win the game, because we are Valencia CF.”

“We always try to start the game well. At home, with the help of the fans, we always try everything in odder to get the win. We want to show that Valencia CF are a great side.”

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