After the 90 minutes and everything else a Clasico entails against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Barcelona will get back to trying to hammer down the accelerator in the race to sew up the La Liga title with a tricky trip to Valencia.
Not for the first time, there has been plenty of fallout from a clash with their fierce rivals that has continued long after the final whistle. Lionel Messi has been accused of both insulting Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka as well as confronting Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa in the car park after the match.
Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura, who will again lead the team at the Mestalla, has said his players are not concerned about all the talk concerning Wednesday’s 1-1 draw.
“We’re exclusively focused on Sunday’s match,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “I don’t comment on things that are said, I just talk about football. The players read stuff but we’re focused on getting another three points.”
With Madrid suffering a defeat to Granada on Saturday, Barcelona can extend their lead over their rivals to 18 points with a victory on Sunday. But Roura is taking nothing for granted against a Valencia side chasing a Champions League place.
“They’re focused, very dangerous on the break and will push us very hard,” he explained. “I don’t think they’ll play any differently against us, despite the defeat [against Real Madrid] they suffered.”
Valencia’s form has been good since Ernesto Valverde took over in December, with the exception of that 5-0 home defeat to Madrid two weeks ago. Currently lying in seventh spot, Valverde knows that every point could be crucial if he is to preserve Valencia’s run of Champions League qualification.
Valverde will be without Fernando Gago for the rest of the season after the Argentinean midfielder was loaned to Velez Sarsfield in the closing stages of the transfer window. Roberto Soldado has a good chance of being fit to take on Barcelona, although Jonas and Dani Parejo look set to miss out. Sofiane Feghouli has returned from African Cup of Nations duty.
Barcelona also sent a player out on loan, with Isaac Cuenca moving to Ajax as he looks to build fitness after injury.
D: Pereira, Rami, Ruiz, Cissokho
M: Albelda, T. Costa
Piatti, Banega, Guardado
D: Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas
F: Pedro, Messi, Iniesta
Prediction: Barcelona could well feel some after-effects of the meeting with Madrid and may not be at their best. But if Valencia push forward and leave gaps as they did in their defeat to Los Blancos then Barcelona will be able to create enough opportunities to get the win in what should be an entertaining encounter.
Valencia 1-3 Barcelona
Where to watch: The La Liga match will kick-off from the Mestalla at 1 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.