How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Valencia

Jason PettigroveContributor IJanuary 31, 2014

Both Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez should play an important part against Valencia.
Both Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez should play an important part against Valencia.David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona entertain local rivals Valencia on Saturday with the two sides enjoying vastly differing fortunes.

The visitors have won just twice on the road this season at Granada and Getafe, whilst Barca will be looking to enjoy their 26th consecutive home win in La Liga.

It's an incredible record that stretches back to October 2012 when arch-rivals Real Madrid held the Blaugrana to a 2-2 draw and in fact, the last time Barca actually lost at home in the league was in April of 2012, again to Real by 1-2.

In contrast, Valencia's fate gets worse by the week.

Whilst 10th place in the league could be seen as reasonable, the fact is that the club are just six points above the relegation places and without a win in five.

A takeover by billionaire Peter Lim has still not materialised, and although Channel News Asia reported that he is still very much in the running for ownership of the club, it will be another month at least before any deal is concluded.

Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi might be praying for a miracle upturn, given that he has just had to loan out Pabon (to Sao Paulo till 2015), Helder Postiga (Lazio till June) & Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen till June), according to ESPN journalist Dermot Corrigan's Twitter account:

Corrigan also expects Sergio Canales will be gone before the closure of this transfer window too:

The only piece of good news on the table is the capture of ex-Barca defensive midfielder Seydou Keita until season's end:

Tata Martino should be able to field his strongest XI after resting many of his big names for the cup match against Levante.

Lionel Messi has still yet to score in La Liga in 2014. After stunning the Mestalla with a hat-trick the last time these two teams met, he will surely be hopeful of breaking his duck in this one. 

The Argentine will be ably supported by Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez.

With Neymar still not ready to return, it's been left to the Chilean and Spaniard to step up to the plate and boy have they delivered. Sanchez especially has supplemented his goals with performances of real quality and purpose.

Alexis Sanchez will be hoping to continue his fine form against Valencia.
Alexis Sanchez will be hoping to continue his fine form against Valencia.David Ramos/Getty Images

Martino may plump for Cesc Fabregas over Andres Iniesta after the latter was withdrawn early from proceedings on Wednesday.

Fabregas' penchant to play a little higher up the pitch will enable Xavi Hernandez to have his usual licence to roam and pull strings. 

It's an attacking quintet that will cause Valencia problems all day long, if they're not on their game from the first whistle.

Sergio Busquets could well be kept in storage for a little longer with both Copa del Rey semi-final ties, and a league game against Sevilla in the offing and after placing Javier Mascherano in a defensive midfield position for the latter part of the Levante match, Martino may go with the same. 

A similar school of thought may apply to Dani Alves and Martin Montoya, but there will be no stopping Jordi Alba playing against his old employers.

Carles Puyol showed the way yet again during the match against Levante, the old war-horse back to his very best. However, two games in a week is no longer an option for him so expect Marc Bartra to partner Gerard Pique in the centre of defence.

Victor Valdes will continue with his excellent stewardship of the Barca goal on a weekend when the deal to bring Marc-Andre ter Stegen to Camp Nou might well be announced, per Mundo Deportivo (h/t Football Espana).