Barcelona vs. Valencia: La Liga Preview, Projected Lineups and Predictions
Last season Valencia showed Barcelona both sides of their personality.
In their first league encounter, La Blaugrana saw the disciplined counter-attacking side that housed one of the league's best keepers in Vicente Guaita. Los Che managed a draw in that match.
In the second league match, Barca outclassed Valencia in a 5-1 route. The Catalan giants once again proved to be the kryptonite of keeper Diego Alves.
This time, Valencia is a much stronger and more balanced side. If they are fit, they have a very good shot of being the first team to take points from Tito Vilanova in his first season as coach.
Carles Puyol suffered a fractured cheek bone last Sunday at Osasuna but has been given a mask to wear so he could be available to start.
Thiago and Isaac Cuenca are still recovering from injuries and will not be fit for this one.
Los Che will be happy to have Roberto Soldado close to full fitness but will likely still be without their preferred midfield group.
Pablo Hernandez could be playing in England come this weekend while Ever Banega and Sergi Canales are still struggling to get fully fit.
Adil Rami is still recovering from a hamstring injury and will struggle to be fit, but if he is, expect him to start.
Against Real Madrid, Vilanova chose to rest David Villa and Cesc Fabregas from the entire match while Dani Alves was out injured. One has to believe that rest was with Valencia in mind.
We could see these players start or at least spend a lot of time on the pitch.
Alex Song made his Barcelona debut in the Clasico and could see his first start Sunday.
Perhaps David Villa could get some time up front, but that may still only be from the bench as he recovers from a broken leg suffered last December.
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi, Villa
Vicente Guaita is back to full fitness and that gives Mauricio Pellegrino an interesting dilemma between the sticks.
Does he go with the young gun who played better against La Blaugrana last season or does he stick with Diego Alves, who has played well in the first two matches?
Aly Cissokho will suit up for the first time, but may start behind Jeremy Mathieu for now.
Valencia: Guaita, Pereira, Costa, Ruiz, Mathieu, Gago, Feghouli, Guardado, Costa, Jonas, Soldado
What's your prediction?
Both teams will be a bit broken in spirit going in.
Valencia bossed Deportivo La Coruña for a half before letting the newly promoted side come back from being three down to earn a draw.
Barcelona suffered a similar fate when they let their rivals make up a one-goal advantage to take the Spanish Supercopa midweek.
It will be interesting to see which team is in better spirit and better form this weekend.
Valencia is more rested, but also have more key injuries. Barcelona will be mentally weakened so now is as good a time as any for La Liga's third-best team to draw blood.
It would be a huge accomplishment and tone-setter if Los Che can take points from Real Madrid and Barcelona in their first three matches, but I think that would be asking too much from an injured team with a rookie manager.
Follow my live coverage of the match right here.
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