Valencia entertain Barcelona in a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday evening. The Mestalla outfit have exceeded their early expectations, and they are presently just four points adrift of table-toppers Barcelona with an unbeaten record. Meanwhile, Barca are pretty much cruising towards the La Liga crown – considering they are already 10 points ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, who are the reigning champions.
The last outing between the clubs was at the Camp Nou last season where Barcelona clinched a 4-2 triumph. The match was equally poised at 2-2 at half-time, but Valencia had Eliaquim Mangala sent off for stopping Luis Suarez in his stride in the box. Barcelona went 3-2 up thanks to Lionel Messi in the 52nd minute before ex-Los Che player Andre Gomes popped up with the final goal one minute from time.
Players to watch for:
Simone Zaza – Valencia: Zaza has been a revelation for Valencia this campaign with nine goals in 11 outings. The Italy international looked out of sorts during his short-term loan spell at West Ham United, but he has since had a fairytale of a story, scoring with nearly every effort on target. The onus will be on the 26-year-old to ruffle the Barcelona backline which could potentially feature Thomas Vermaelen in central defence with Gerard Pique suspended and Javier Mascherano injured.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona: The Argentine superstar has been in stunning form for Barcelona this term, contributing 12 goals in as many league games (BBC Sport). Messi played just little over 35 minutes in the 0-0 draw against Juventus in the Champions League in midweek, and Ernesto Valverde has kept his talisman afresh for a game which is likely to matter the most in their title quest. Messi averages nearly three shots on target per match, and he is certain to pose a major threat to the Los Che backline with his pace, movement and dribbling which often catches the best in the game off-guard.
Valencia are likely to push for the odd goal versus Barcelona, but the visitors will fancy a close win.
Valencia 1-2 Barcelona
Image – Getty