MX23RW : Saturday, July 31 08:59:20| >> :120:50329:50329:
Oct 7, 2018 at 7.45pm UK at Estadio de Mestalla (Valencia)
Attendance: 46,249
Valencia
1-1
Barcelona
Garay (2')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Messi (23')

Preview: Valencia vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole looks ahead to Sunday's La Liga clash between Valencia and champions Barcelona, including team news, predicted XIs and a full match preview.

Barcelona will hope to have put a brief blip behind them when they visit the Mestalla to take on Valencia on Sunday evening.

The Spanish champions returned to winning ways against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, but go into this weekend's match having failed to win any of their last three La Liga outings.


Valencia

Valencia manager Marcelino watches on during his side's Champions League clash with Juventus in September 2018© Reuters

It has been a tumultuous time for Valencia in recent seasons, with two successive 12th-placed finishes seeing them drop out of Europe before returning to the Champions League by finishing fourth last term.

Fans will be concerned that the early stages of this season have developed in a manner which suggest another of the disappointing campaigns, with Marcelino's side having won just one of their nine matches across all competitions in 2018-19.

Valencia are already seven points worse off this season than they were at the same stage of 2017-18, with most of those dropped points coming via draws. Los Che have shared the spoils in five of their seven La Liga matches this season.

On the bright side, they are unbeaten in their last five league games and last weekend they finally ended their wait for a first win of the campaign by beating Real Sociedad 1-0.

However, Marcelino will know that such regular draws are not a recipe for success, and the first port of call in order to turn those single points into three is scoring more goals.

Valencia have scored just twice in their last six outings across all competitions and drew another blank against Manchester United in midweek as they were held to a 0-0 stalemate at Old Trafford.

An away Champions League point is rarely a bad thing - particularly at a ground like Old Trafford - but while much was made of United's performance in that match, Valencia also offered precious little to suggest that they could grab hold of the game.

Los Che will certainly need more of a cutting edge if they are to pick up their first home win of the season at the expense of Barcelona, but they have only scored twice in their four home outings at the Mestalla so far.

Things are better at the other end of the field, though, with Valencia having kept three clean sheets and conceded just one goal in their last four outings.

Recent La Liga form: LDDDDW
Recent form (all competitions): DLDDWD


Barcelona

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur on October 3, 2018© Reuters

Barcelona can consider themselves very lucky to still sit atop the La Liga table going into gameweek eight following a poor run of form which has seen them fail to win any of their last three domestic outings.

Ernesto Valverde's side have dropped seven points in that time, but have been repeatedly let off by title rivals Real Madrid, who have also suffered their own slump in form.

Home draws with Girona and Athletic Bilbao were disappointing, particularly as Barca deserved little more in either case, but their 2-1 loss to Leganes will go down as the nadir of their recent blip - or at least they hope it will.

The performances have been poor as well as the results, but there were signs of a return to their best in midweek when they ran out 4-2 winners over Tottenham at Wembley.

Lionel Messi was in inspired form as Barca made it two wins from two in the Champions League - and eight goals in those two games as well - putting a Blaugrana back on the winning track after seeing their perfect start to the campaign ended a fortnight ago.

Sunday marks the beginning of a difficult run of fixtures for Barca, though, with Sevilla, Inter Milan and Real Madrid to come in their first three games back after the international break, so a failure to build on Wednesday's Wembley win could prove particularly costly.

Barcelona have lost two of their last four La Liga away games - having gone unbeaten in 21 such matches prior to that - and defeat at the Mestalla would condemn them to back-to-back away league losses for the first time since October 2015.

One area the Spanish champions do need to improve is defensively, having kept just one clean sheet in their last seven games across all competitions, conceding 10 goals in that time.

Sunday is sure to be a difficult test, with Valencia possessing the sort of pace which has caused Barca problems this season, but Valverde will know that their title rivals will not keep on letting them off the hook, so a swift return to form is imperative.

Recent La Liga form: WWWDLD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDLDW


Team News

Luis Suarez in action for Barcelona on September 29, 2018© Reuters

Barcelona are sweating over the fitness of Luis Suarez, who is a doubt for this match due to a knee problem.

Should the Uruguayan not be passed fit then Munir El-Haddadi is the most likely replacement, although Valverde could also decide to switch to a 4-4-2 formation.

Ousmane Dembele missed the win over Spurs in midweek and is pushing for a recall to the side - which could see Philippe Coutinho drop deeper - but Arthur would then be expected to make way and the Brazilian put in a good performance at Wembley.

Samuel Umtiti (ankle) and Sergi Roberto (muscle) remain sidelined, which means that Clement Lenglet and Nelson Semedo will continue in defence for the champions.

Valencia, meanwhile, are still without Santi Mina but were able to recall Jose Gaya to the team against Manchester United.

The likes of Kevin Gameiro, Carlos Soler and Denis Cheryshev are also in contention to start, while Ruben Vezo and Daniel Wass could come back into the side too.

Valencia possible starting lineup:
Neto; Vezo, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Cheryshev; Rodrigo, Batshuayi

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho; Messi, Suarez, Dembele


Head To Head

Barcelona have won all three meetings between these two sides so far in 2018 and are unbeaten in their last six across all competitions, winning five of those.

Valencia's past two wins over Barca have both come at the Camp Nou, and they have not won a home game against La Blaugrana in La Liga since February 2007.

Barcelona are unbeaten in 11 such matches since, but have only won five of those and drew on their last league visit in November.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Valencia 1-2 Barcelona

This will be a stern test for a Barcelona side struggling for form in La Liga, but Valencia have also been patchy this season and Wednesday's Champions League win should restore some of the visitors' confidence.



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Luis Suarez in action for Barcelona on September 29, 2018
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Saturday's key events


TRIATHLON
· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

SWIMMING
· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

ATHLETICS
· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

SAILING
· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

TENNIS
· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

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