Messi the key as Barca face tough Mestalla test
06 Oct 2018, 21:17 ( 15 days ago)
FC Barcelona face another stiff test on Sunday when they visit Valencia's Mestalla Stadium.
The leaders of the Liga Santander lifted some of the pressure on coach Ernesto Valverde on Wednesday night with a 4-2 win away to Tottenham in the Champions League on a night when Leo Messi was back to his brilliant best.
That win came after a run of three matches without a triumph as Valverde attempted to rotate his squad to ensure they remain as fresh as possible, only for fringe players to fail to live up to expectations.
With the international break around the corner, Valverde is likely to field his strongest side in a ground where Barca always receive a hostile reception, and he could well repeat the side which triumphed in Wembley.
Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto are still sidelined through injury, thus Clement Lenglet, who was impressive in London, will partner Gerard Pique, who himself produced an improved display in midweek.
It will be interesting to see if Valverde includes recent signing Malcom in his match-day squad as the Brazilian winger has so-far struggled to enter the coach's plans, unlike his countryman, Arthur, who produced an assured display in midweek alongside Sergio Busquets.
Valencia had a slow start to the season and were without a win until Kevin Gameiro's first half goal gave them a 1-0 win away to Real Sociedad last weekend and they continued a positive week on Tuesday with a 0-0 draw in the Champions League away to Manchester United.
A win against Barca would certainly confirm the recovery of Marcelino Garcia's side and with players such as Rodrigo Moreno and Goncalo Guedes to lead the Valencia attack, they certainly have the players to make Barca suffer if the Catalans have an off day.
In the end, however, the game will probably all come down to one man: Messi. If the Argentinean has a good day as he did in midweek, Barca will be clear favorites, but if he is tired by his midweek exploits, Valencia have a good chance of taking all three points.