Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways, when they face off against Valencia, who will be with a new manager, on Saturday night.

La Liga returns to action this weekend after the first international break of the 2019-20 season. And reigning champions Barcelona will be aiming to notch up their second win of the campaign when they host Valencia at Camp Nou.

It hasn’t been the best of the starts to the new season for Barcelona. The Catalans began with a defeat to Athletic Bilbao, but seemed to have bounced back with a 5-2 win against Real Betis only to be held to a 2-2 draw by Osasuna in their most recent fixture.

The disappointing run of results have meant that Barcelona have gathered only four points from their three matches, which has left them in the eighth position in the La Liga table – five points off of leaders Atletico Madrid. It is imperative that Ernesto Valverde’s men get things back on track as soon as possible if they are to catch up with their title challengers.

Valencia will be kickstarting a new era under new manager Albert Celades after the club sacked Marcelino on Wednesday. Marcelino had led Los Che to a fourth place finish in the league and the Copa del Rey triumph last season, but his strained relationship with owner Peter Lim ultimalely led to him getting the axe.

Former Barcelona midfielder Celades has been brought in as the replacement. The 43-year-old has previously managed Spain’s U-16, U-17 and U-21 sides and was also Fernando Hierro’s assistant during La Roja’s disastrous 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign. With Valencia collecting just four points from their three matches so far, the manager will have to hit the ground running against his boyhood club.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

Messi is still unavailable for selection (Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Messi is still unavailable for selection (Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Captain and star man Lionel Messi will once again miss out for Barcelona as he continues his recovery from a thigh strain he picked up last month. Samuel Umtiti is a doubt with a foot problem he picked during the international break. Ousmane Dembele remains sidelined, while new signing Neto is ruled out after undergoing a wrist operation.

But, there is some good news for the Catalans as Luis Suarez is back to full fitness and trained with the squad this week, while Nelson Semedo also seems to have shaken off the ankle injury he picked up on duty for Portugal during the international break.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certainty to start under the woodwork for the La Liga champions on Saturday night. With Umtiti a doubt for the fixture, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet should continue at the heart of the defence, despite the latter’s heavy involvement with France during the break. Jordi Alba should start at left-back, while Semedo is likely to be retained at right-back.

Sergio Busquets ought to feature as the deepest of the three midfielders for Barcelona. The likes of Frenkie de Jong, Arthur Melo, Ivan Rakitic, Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto – reinstated to his desired midfield role, will battle for the two remaining positions. Arthur, after his contributions against Osasuna, should start, while de Jong is also likely to get the nod.

Academy starlet Carles Perez has made a major impact for the senior team this season and should continue out on the right flank, while new signing Antoine Griezmann should feature on the left wing. The fit-again Luis Suarez will lead the line for the reigning champions.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Perez, Suarez, Griezmann

Valencia

Albert Celades is the new Valencia manager (Photo by Maciej Gillert/AFP/Getty Images)

Albert Celades is the new Valencia manager (Photo by Maciej Gillert/AFP/Getty Images)

Celades prefers to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but he is likely to stick with the 4-4-2 setup that has worked well for Valencia. The new boss is unlikely to make a lot of changes to the side that defeated Mallorca 2-0 in their last fixture prior to the international break. Los Che will be without the services of Carlos Soler and Cristiano Piccini for their trip to Barcelona.

Former Barcelona man Jasper Cillessen, who moved to Valencia this past summer, will start in goal on his return to Camp Nou. The Netherlands international will be shielded by a back four comprising of Daniel Wass and Jose Gaya as the full-backs on either side of the central defensive pairing of Ezequiel Garay and Mouctar Diakhaby.

With Soler sidelined, youngster Ferran Torres is likely to continue on the right side of the midfield four, while Portugal international Goncalo Guedes should get the nod on the opposite wing. Former Arsenal midfielder started as one of the two central midfielders last time out and should once again feature, ahead of Geoffrey Kondogbia.

Captain Dani Parejo, who scored both the goals for Valencia against Mallorca last time out, is a surefire starter in the other midfield slot. The two-pronged attack for Los Che should comprise of Frenchman Kevin Gameiro and Spanish international Rodrigo Moreno, with summer acquisition Maxi Gomez providing options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cillessen; Wass, Garay, Diakhaby, Gaya; Torres, Parejo, Coquelin, Guedes; Gameiro, Rodrigo

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have collected just four points in the 2019-20 La Liga (W1 D1 L1), their worst start after three games of a season since 2008-09, under Pep Guardiola (also four).
  • Valencia have only lost one of their last six La Liga matches (W4 D1) – a 1-0 defeat away at Celta Vigo on Matchday 2 of this season.
  • Barcelona have only lost two of their last 24 La Liga games against Valencia (W14 D8). However, both the defeats came at Camp Nou (2-3 in February 2014 and 1-2 in April 2016).
  • Two of Valencia’s three goals in the league this season have been scored from the penalty spot (66.7%), with Dani Parejo converting both the spot kicks.
  • Barcelona new boy Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in seven goals in his last six La Liga outings against Los Che (five goals and two assists).

Player to Watch

Carles Perez

Growing in stature and confidence. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Growing in stature and confidence (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The 21-year-old Carles Perez has proven to be the biggest beneficiary of Barcelona’s injury issues in the final third this season. With Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele still not available, the La Masia graduate is set to get an extended run in the first-team and he seems to be relishing the big stage.

Perez, in his three La Liga appearances, has scored one goal and assisted two more – he set up both Barcelona’s goals in the 2-2 draw against Osasuna. Expected to feature from the get go against Valencia on Saturday, the youngster awaits his biggest test yet against an accomplished full-back like Jose Gaya and it will be interesting to see how he fares.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-1 Valencia

Barcelona have made a slow start to the new season and already find themselves five points off of leaders Atletico Madrid. The disappointing results have invariably led to immense pressure on manager Ernesto Valverde and he will want to get things back on track at the earliest.

Valencia too have won, drawn and lost a game each much like Barcelona, but find themselves in rocky terrain following the sudden sacking of Marcelino, who had done a solid job during his tenure at the club. Going up against the champions in his first game in charge will be a huge test for new manager Albert Celades.

Los Che drew both their league games against Barcelona last season and defeated them in the Copa del Rey final, which should fill them with confidence. However, the after-effects of Marcelino’s axing are likely to be felt by the visitors on Saturday, which should provide the Catalans with an advantage. We expect the champions to notch up their second win of the season on Saturday.

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