Catalan derby: Valencia vs Barcelona is exciting for everybody


Arguably the pick of this weekend's La Liga action will take place at the Mestalla on Saturday afternoon as Valencia welcome the Spanish champions Barcelona, reports agencies. Valencia currently occupy seventh spot in the table with 31 points to show from their 20 matches, while Barca still lead second-placed Real Madrid by goal difference at the top of the division.

Barca were also in Copa del Rey action on Wednesday night and secured their passage into the round of 16 courtesy of a 2-1 win away to Ibiza. It was actually a tough 90 minutes for the Spanish champions, but they progressed courtesy of a late Antoine Griezmann effort. Quique Setien's first game as head coach ended in a 1-0 win against Granada last weekend, with Lionel Messi coming up with the all-important goal in the 76th minute of the contest.

As a result, the Catalan giants are still top of the table with 43 points from their 20 matches, but Real Madrid are only in second on goal difference and will fancy their chances of beating Real Valladolid on Sunday. It certainly does not appear that Barca will be running away with the league this season, and they have actually been held by Real Sociedad and Espanyol in their last two La Liga fixtures on the road.

As mentioned, the team's recent record against Valencia is strong, although three of their last four league matches at the Mestalla have finished with the two sides sharing the spoils. Valencia will again be without the services of Cristiano Piccini, Goncalo Guedes and Manu Vallejo through injury, but key forward Rodrigo Moreno is being tipped to recover from a knee problem to feature.

Los Che will be without Dani Parejo through suspension, though, meaning that Ferran Torres or Geoffrey Kondogbia could come into the side. Maxi Gomez could lose his spot if Rodrigo recovers in time, although Kevin Gameiro is expected to keep his position in the final third of the field.

As for Barca, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele will again miss out through knee and hamstring injuries respectively, while number two goalkeeper Neto will be unavailable due to an ankle sprain. Messi was not involved against Ibiza but will return to the XI here, and Setien could well select a 3-5-2 formation once again with Griezmann partnering the returning Argentine in attack.

Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti and Arturo Vidal should all return, while Sergi Roberto is expected to get the nod over Nelson Semedo down the right with Ansu Fati potentially dropping to the bench.