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Barcelona will welcome Valencia to the Camp Nou on Sunday in the La Liga, as they look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.
The Catalans were handed a shock 2-1 loss by a depleted Deportivo side, which meant Barca yielded their top position back to arch-rivals Real Madrid, who opened up a two-point lead. However, Luis Enrique’s men will be hoping to put that setback behind them and put in a strong showing against the Los Che and keep the heat on Madrid as we near the business end of the season.
Enrique will be sweating over the fitness of star man Lionel Messi who is reportedly injured and will be assessed closer to the game, while Neymar is likely to miss out again after sitting out of the trip to Deportivo. Left-back Jordi Alba too is a major doubt for the fixture. However, Rafinha is expected to be fit after gastroenteritis ruled him out last weekend. And defender Jeremy Mathieu has returned to full training as well. Aleix Vidal remains the only long-term absentee for Barcelona.
The German shot-stopper has had a good season so far for the Blaugrana. He will continue in goal ahead of Jasper Cillesen.
At the back will be Javier Mascherano. The Argentine has been a regular starter since his return from injury and it should stay the same way.
Alongside Mascherano, it will be Spain International Gerard Pique. He has been Barcelona’s best defender by some margin this season and is a guaranteed starter.
And completing the three-man defence will be Samuel Umtiti. The Frenchman will return to the squad in place of Jordi Alba, who is a doubt for the fixture.
At the base of the midfield, Sergio Busquets will keep his place. He will need to be at the top of his game for Barcelona against the Los Che.
Along with Busquets, we expect Ivan Rakitic to return to the fold. He will be replacing Denis Suarez, who did not enjoy the best of the games against Deportivo.
Alongside Rakitic, we believe senior statesman Andres Iniesta is also poised for a return, following another ineffective and unimpressive display by Andre Gomes last week.
We expect Lionel Messi to feature despite minor doubts about his fitness. He will move into the free central role from where he has been wreaking havoc.
On the right-hand flank, we expect a return for the impressive Rafinha. The Brazilian has scored six times this season and will come in, meaning Sergi Roberto will miss out.
Spearheading the line will be Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has been a little profligate in front of goal at times, but having scored last week, will hope to build on from there.
And on the left-hand side, we expect no change with Arda Turan getting his second consecutive start after returning from injury as Neymar still recuperates from his injury.