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Barcelona vs. Valencia: What to Watch for in Vital La Liga Match

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 19:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona strikes the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Camp Nou on August 19, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2012

The biggest match of this weekend's La Liga slate undoubtedly happens Sunday as FC Barcelona takes on Valencia FC.

Pitting the second and third place teams against each other, this match has a ton of storylines and could have some major takeaways going forward.

With each team losing in their previous match, this will be huge for both outfits going forward in the La Liga season. 

For that reason, here's a look at what to watch for in Sunday's vital matchup. 

 

Lionel Messi, 4 Goals in 2 Games: Can He Keep It Up?

Though the scintillating forward lost out on the UEFA Best Player in Europe trophy to teammate Andres Iniesta, he comes into this match playing at a top-notch level.

With four goals in two games, Messi is well on his way to challenging his record 50 goals from the 2011 La Liga slate. With Valencia unable to record a clean sheet in either match so far this season, the fruit looks ripe for the picking for Messi on Sunday. 

If the Catalans star can get free for an open shot or two, it could mean disaster for Los Che.

 

Will Diego Alves Atone for His Struggles vs. Deportivo?

After a sensational performance in Valencia's 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeau, Alves put together one of his worst career performances last week against Deportivo.

By allowing three goals, the Valencia keeper cost his outfit vital points in Los Che's second straight draw.

With Valencia having not earned points at Camp Nou since before the Pep Guardiola era, this could be a perfect chance for Alves make up for last week.

If he's able to keep Barcelona's stable of strong scorers off the board for a clean slate, it would be far more impressive than even his performance versus Real Madrid.

 

Can Barcelona Recover From Its Loss to Real Madrid in Super Copa?

Despite coming into Sunday's match as two-goal favorites (via Bovada.lv), Barcelona will have to be fully recovered from a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to rival Real Madrid Thursday to come out on top. 

The loss gave Los Blancos the outfit's first Super Copa title since 2008 by beating Barca on away goals. 

For Barcelona, this defeat came as a massive disappointment. The squad came into this year's Super Copa as three-time defending champions and had seemingly become a juggernaut in the tournament. And though Tito Vilanova's squad put together an exemplary effort at the Bernabeu, the sting of losing to a hated rival in midweek won't sit well.

That could mean doom, or it could mean a great opportunity for Valencia. The outfit is massively underrated and has an impressive draw at the Bernabeu this season. If Barca is unable to get over that loss, Sunday's contest could be closer than advertised. 

With Vilanova barred from the dugout in this match, it will undoubtedly be must-watch football. 

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