Barca v Valencia: Catalans get Neymar, Rafinha boost

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Barca v Valencia: Catalans get Neymar, Rafinha boost

Barcelona have been boosted by the return of Neymar and Rafinha as they chase points against Valencia on Sunday to keep up the pressure on the league leaders Real Madrid who won away at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Sunday's late fixture brings the last fixture before the international break, with Zinedine Zidane's men sitting five points clear of the catalans at the top of La Liga table.

Team news

Neymar Jr, chasing his 100th official goal for Barcelona and his Brazilian compatriot Rafinha are both good to go after sitting out the game at Deportivo last week, while Jeremy Mathieu has also been training normally and could get the all-clear as well. The only certain absentee is Aleix Vidal, out with a long-term ankle injury.

Valencia aren’t having much luck going forward, with Rodrigo Moreno, Nani and Santi Mina all side-lined, while midfielder Mario Suarez is also doubtful. Two of the visitors will be especially familiar faces to Barça fans, defender Martin Montoya and striker Munir (the latter on loan).

Head-to-head

There’s been a bit of everything in this fixture of late. The glorious 7-0 win in the Copa del Rey semi-final contrasts considerably with two Valencia wins in their last three Liga visits to the Camp Nou. But it’s a game where Leo Messi tends to shine.

According to a stat on Barca's website, no goalkeeper has conceded as many Liga goals to the Argentine striker than Valencian stopper Diego Alves, who has picked Messi-struck balls out of his net 19 times – including the injury time penalty at Mestalla earlier this season that turned what would have been a dignified away draw into three huge points.

Form guide

Barcelona's 19-match unbeaten run in La Liga came to an end with 2-1 defeat at Riazor last week (view highlights), and the result means they are no longer ’depending on themselves’ as the locals say, referring to the situation whereby even by winning all their remaining matches, a team is not guaranteed that they’ll finish top.

Valencia’s erratic season continues, with recent results ranging from a 2-1 victory against Real Madrid to a 4-0 defeat at home to Eibar. They’re down in 13th and have only won one of their last ten games away from Mestalla.

Managers' quotes

Luis Enrique - Barcelona manager

"Looking back at past encounters, they are an opponent who always cause us problems. Even though they are not high up in the table, they have top class players and will be tough opponents."

Voro - Valencia manager

"Barça are always dangerous. Even when they have an off day, they have players that can make the difference ... But we aren’t scared, it’s just a football match. We have to make sure we get things right to make them feel uncomfortable at home."

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