Valencia vs. Barcelona: Team News, Preview, Live Stream, TV Info

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2017

TURIN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 22:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Juventus and FC Barcelona at Juventus Stadium on November 22, 2017 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

La Liga's top two meet at the Estadio Mestalla on Sunday when second-placed Valencia host leaders Barcelona. Los Che trail the Blaugrana by four points but have been revived on the watch of manager Marcelino, who will be banned from the touchline for this game.

The bad news for Valencia is Lionel Messi is likely to return to the starting lineup after Barca left their best player on the bench for 56 minutes during the 0-0 draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Here are the schedule and viewing details before a preview and look at the team news:

           

Date: Sunday, November 26

Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT / 2:45 p.m. ET

TV Info: Sky Sports Football, beIN Sports

Live Stream: Sky GofuboTV

         

Preview

Messi and manager Ernesto Valverede agreed he would start on the bench against Juve, according to Moises Llorens of AS. Llorens spelled out why Valverde was so keen to give his best player a temporary breather:

"Between La Liga and the Champions League, Messi has played 1,350 minutes, all of those possible, and at Mestalla on Sunday against Valencia Barcelona have what they consider an 'absolutely crunch match', for which Valverde is desperate to have Messi in top form. And this time Messi agreed."

Messi starting will be an ominous sign for Valencia, who will already be concerned about Barcelona's gifted No. 9 Luis Suarez. The big question for Valverde concerns who he starts next to his marquee front two.

Messi is set to start after a rest in midweek.
Messi is set to start after a rest in midweek.Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

His choices are Gerard Deulofeu and former Valencia ace Paco Alcacer. The latter is a natural striker, while Deulofeu is more of a winger.

Valverde's other choice will be to insert Paulinho into midfield alongside Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. The manager hasn't been afraid to play with two strikers through the middle this season.

Issues at the back may command more of Valverde's attention after Gerard Pique lost his appeal against suspension, per Sam Marsden of ESPN FC.

Marsden noted what Pique's absence will mean for the middle of Barcelona's defence: "With Javier Mascherano also missing for the game at Mestalla, Valverde is left with just Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen as his only available central defenders."

Vermaelen's Barca career has been wrecked by injuries, but he may be needed against a Valencia side not short of goals this season. Los Che often play with two up top, with ex-West Ham United outcast Simone Zaza thriving.

Zaza's fitness will be key for Valencia.
Zaza's fitness will be key for Valencia.fotopress/Getty Images

Zaza has scored an impressive nine goals in Spain's top flight this season. However, Zaza picked up a knee problem while on international duty with Italy recently, per CalcioMercato.com, and was rested for the win over Espanyol last time out.

If Zaza is fully fit, he and strike partner Rodrigo will surely cause a depleted Barca defence problems. Yet the Valencia back line will also be understrength with centre-backs Jeison Murillo Javier Jimenez set to miss out, per Goal's Ben Hayward.

Murillo in particular will be missed, but the bigger loss for Valencia may be not having Marcelino in the dugout. The 52-year-old will begin a two-match touchline ban after complaining to the officials too much during the 2-0 win over Espanyol.

Los Che appealed to have the ban reduced, but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (h/t ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia) issued a statement confirming Marcelino will serve the full punishment.

Los Che boss Marcelino will serve the first of a two-match ban.
Los Che boss Marcelino will serve the first of a two-match ban.Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Picking a winner isn't easy when two sides in form will both miss key players. Barca have been adept at winning ugly this season and will have Messi for inspiration, but a score draw seems more likely in Valencia.

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