Barcelona is fresh off of a disappointing defeat in El Clasico to Real Madrid, but with a tough match against Valencia this weekend, Barca will need to bring their A-game if they want to maintain their status at the top of La Liga.
In the final leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, Barcelona conceded two early goals and ultimately lost to Real 2-1. The fact that they were in the game at all was impressive, especially considering that Adriano was given a red card after taking down Ronaldo in the 29th minute.
But even with 10 men, Barca still made several mistakes that they won't be able to get away with later in the season.
"There are things we need to correct," said Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova after the Real game (via Yahoo! Sports).
As they resume play in La Liga this weekend, Barcelona may once again have the services of Carles Puyol, who sat out El Clasico on Wednesday with a broken cheekbone. Puyol does, however, have a lower back injury that is causing him some issues as well. Fullback Dani Alves also missed the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup with a muscle injury, though it's likely that he'll see action on Sunday.
Offense shouldn't be an issue for Barca against Valencia: They've scored seven goals in their first two games this year, and have already put 28 shots on goal. David Villa appears to be 100 percent after breaking his left leg in December, and Lionel Messi (four goals) is already in midseason form.
Valencia will prove to be a difficult test, however. Los Che finished third in La Liga the past three seasons, and the squad played Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw back on August 19. In their most recent contest, striker Roberto Soldado scored twice in the span of 17 minutes, though Valencia faltered late and would have to settle for a 3-3 tie with Deportivo La Coruna.
Barcelona would do well to use Valencia's aggressiveness against them: Los Che has already been carded 10 times this season (nine yellow, one red), and if Valencia draws the ire of the referees early, Messi and Villa could have a field day.
Barcelona already has a five-point advantage over Real Madrid in La Liga, and now is the perfect time for Barca to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. With a win on Sunday, they can make a huge statement in La Liga, while at the same time erasing the memory of their painful defeat at the hands of Los Blancos.
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