It’s official, Barcelona are in “crisis.”
With just one win in their last five matches—that ultimately meaningless victory in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Atletico Madrid—Barca have seen their treble dreams shattered and their La Liga rivals close in on them in the battle for domestic glory.
Given their standards, it is a fairly alarming slip, and the Camp Nou will expect better when Pako Ayesteran’s Valencia come calling on Sunday evening.
Ayesteran, who has replaced Gary Neville in the Los Che hotseat, has experienced a loss and a win during his temporary spell in charge so far, with the victory coming in dramatic circumstances in the final stages of last weekend’s clash with Sevilla.
However, the former Liverpool assistant manager will know that this will represent a much tougher test, especially with Barca determined to do better following recent form.
Date: Sunday, April 17
Time: 7.30 p.m. BST / 2.30 p.m. ET
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
TV Info: Sky Sports 3
Live Stream: Sky Sports
Last 6 Results
Won 3-1 vs. Arsenal
Drew 2-2 vs. Villarreal
Lost 2-1 vs. Real Madrid
Won 2-1 vs. Atletico Madrid
Lost 1-0 vs. Real Sociedad
Lost 2-0 vs. Atletico Madrid
Lost 1-0 vs. Athletic Bilbao
Lost 1-0 vs. Levante
Won 2-1 vs. Athletic Bilbao
Lost 2-0 vs. Celta Vigo
Lost 2-1 vs. Las Palmas
Won 2-1 vs. Sevilla
Luis Suarez was suspended for the last Liga clash at Real Sociedad, but he returned for the Champions League tie at Atletico Madrid. Despite that defeat, Luis Enrique is likely to name the same “Gala XI” this time around, with Claudio Bravo obviously returning in goal.
Arda Turan is suspended for this game anyway, and despite their substitutions just after the hour mark when they were chasing the game in Madrid, Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic are likely to be retained here.
Sandro and Jeremy Mathieu are both still out injured.
Possible XI: Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Neymar, Messi, Suarez.
Zakaria Bakkali and the on-loan Denis Cheryshev are both still out injured for Valencia, and Pako Ayesteran faces the question of whether or not to start with Alvaro Negredo following his late goalscoring intervention as a substitute last weekend.
The interim boss is more likely to stick with the more mobile Paco Alcacer from the start, though, with Santi Mina and Rodrigo providing attacking support from out wide.
Andre Gomes, Javi Fuego and Dani Parejo are going to need to be energetic in midfield.
Possible XI: Diego Alves, Barragan, Abdennour, Mustafi, Siqueira, Gomes, Fuego, Parejo, Santi Mina, Rodrigo, Alcacer.
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
It can sometimes be easy to overlook Lionel Messi when it comes to discussing “key players” in a Barcelona fixture, such is the Argentinian’s continued and sustained excellence. But following a rare off-period, the forward is under a little bit of pressure here.
Messi has failed to either score or assist a goal in each of his past five Barca appearances, and so there will be a greater-than-usual scrutiny of his display here.
Valencia: Aymen Abdennour
In his first season at Valencia following his move from Monaco in the summer, Tunisian defender Aymen Abdennour has had something of an up-and-down time at the club and is now playing under his third different manager.
Tall and solid, the centre-back will be crucial if Valencia are going to get anything from this game, especially with the movement of Barca’s famed front three.
Odds (via Odds Shark)