Barcelona, March 18 (IANS) FC Barcelona face Valencia at the Camp Nou Stadium here on Sunday afternoon in a game which is vital to their La Liga football title ambitions.
The last game before the international break could see Barcelona kick off five points off the top of the table if Real Madrid beat Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday afternoon and as such Luis Enrique’s side can’t afford any more slip ups, such as last weekend’s defeat away to Deportivo la Coruna.
That defeat could may be excused as a hangover from their Champions League triumph against Paris Saint-Germain the previous week, but this time there can be no excuses.
Neymar is available again after being rested last weekend, while Rafinha and Jeremy Mathieu are also in contention following injury, with Rafinha the more likely if Enrique continues his tactic of playing three central defenders coupled with two wing-backs.
Meanwhile Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will accompany Neymar in attack, along with Andres Iniesta, who the Spanish press report has for the moment rejected a tempting offer to play in China.
Valencia travel to Barcelona after having just about assured their La Liga future under caretaker coach Voro Gonzalez and have no pressure on them, despite two poor displays which saw them lose 0-3 away against Atletico Madrid and held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Sporting Gijon last Sunday.
Midfielder Enzo Perez will return following suspension and many Barcelona fans will probably remember the challenge from the Argentinian which caused Iniesta to miss almost two months through injury following the first meeting between the two sides earlier this season.
Sunday is also a special day in Valencia given that it is the culminating day of the city’s ‘Fallas’ celebrations. And the fact the kick off of the game has been scheduled to coincide with what for many Valencians is the key moment of their year has not gone down well with supporters, who have criticised the insensitivity of the league for their poor timing.