Preview: Barcelona v Valencia

Lionel Messi Barcelona

With Barcelona out of the picture in Europe this season, they can turn all their attention to wrapping up La Liga – starting with the visit of Valencia on Saturday.

La Liga
14 April 2018
Gameweek 32
Kick-off: 22H15 HKT
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: C. Del Cerro
Assistants: J. Yuste, A. Alvarez
Fourth official: P. Munoz

Head-to-head summary

Barcelona 61 31 16 14
Valencia 61 14 16 31

Previous encounter

Valencia 0-2 Barcelona 08/02/18 (Copa del Rey)

Barcelona goalscorers: P. Coutinho (49′), I. Rakitic (82′)

Players to watch

Lionel Messi has been the star of the show in Barca’s title challenge. The Argentine has scored 29 goals in 30 league appearances, while also providing 12 assists. He will be keen to make an impact against Los Che after a disappointing performance against Roma last time out.

Rodrigo has been integral to Valencia’s late charge, with the Spanish forward finding the back of the net in each of his last five outings and tallying six goals. He is their top scorer in the league this season with 15 and has also set up five goals for his team-mates.

Team form and manager quotes

Ernesto Valverde’s side squandered a 4-1 lead against Roma in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals to crash out on away goals after a 3-0 defeat in the second leg on Tuesday.

It was their first loss in any competition since being beaten 1-0 by Espanyol in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on January 17. Barca got the better of their neighbours in the second leg and will contest the final against Sevilla next weekend, having defeated Los Che in the last four.

The Blaugrana almost have the league title in the bag as they hold an 11-point cushion over second-placed Atletico Madrid with seven games remaining and are still unbeaten after 31 matches.

But Valverde is looking for a response from his players after their midweek disappointment, with a league-and-cup double still very much on the cards. However, he acknowledged Marcelino’s men aren’t about to roll over for them on Saturday.

“I expect the same Valencia as always. They are on an extraordinary streak with a system that is giving them great success, and they are a team having a great season,” the Spaniard said in his pre-match press conference.

“We have many things to win, and we have to think about imposing ourselves on the next game.”

Valencia are in fine form ahead of the trip to Catalonia, having gone nine games unbeaten and winning their last five on the spin.

That superb run has lifted them up to third in the standings, three points behind Atletico and one clear of fourth-placed Real Madrid.

But Marcelino is aware of the mammoth task awaiting his team at the Camp Nou, although he’s determined to make it a bad week for Barca.

“It’s rare for FC Barcelona to lose two consecutive games, but we’re going there motivated and looking to win,” he told the press.

Team news

The hosts were dealt a further blow on Tuesday when Ivan Rakitic fractured a bone in his left hand.

The Croatian midfielder joins Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Aleix Vidal on the sidelines.

The visitors have a near full-strength squad available to them, with just Francis Coquelin ruled out.