Valencia vs Barcelona Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Prediction and More

Valencia plays host to Barcelona this weekend as the league leaders look to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points. 
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Valencia plays host to Barcelona this weekend as the league leaders look to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points. 

Second place Valencia also have a lot at stake in this game, as a win could mean that they reduce the gap at the top to one point, bringing them ever so closer to the Catalan side.

High flying Valencia come into this game on an eight-game winning streak, giving them a great deal of confidence and momentum, however, you would not bet against Barcelona being the team to bring an end to the streak.

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Classic Encounter 

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Neither of the teams are strangers to a high intensity, back and forth game, with multiple close encounters between the two sides in the past.

However, it was their clash in February of 2016 that stands out in memory as the hosts, Barcelona humiliated a Valencia side that saw seven goals go past their keeper.

It was four goals from star striker Luis Suarez and a hat-trick from Lionel Messi that ultimately buried Valencia, while Neymar missed a penalty. However, Valencia was going through a transition during that period, under new manager, Gary Neville. This time around, the hosts seem to have found a rhythm and could seriously threaten Barcelona.

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Key Battle

Lionel Messi vs Simon Zaza

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The clash on Sunday will see two of La Liga's top scorers go up against one another in what will surely turn into a goal-fest.

Lionel Messi leads the league in scoring with 12 goals while Simon Zaza is hot on his heels with 9, respectively. Both stars will be eager to get on the scoresheet in order to build on their hot scoring starts to the season.

Messi has now gone 4 games in all competitions for Barcelona without a goal, which would be normal for any other player but is almost inconceivable for someone of Messi's stature. 

Meanwhile, Zaza previously scored against Alaves at the end of October and is yet to score since then. 

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Team News

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Barcelona will make the journey without the anchor of their defence, Gerard Pique, as the Spaniard picked up a yellow card in their last league game, meaning he will be suspended for the clash.

Meanwhile, Valencia boss Marcelino has been banned from the touchline on Sunday following his dismissal during his side's 2-0 win over Espanyol on Sunday. Marcelino will also miss out on Valencia's clash with Getafe following their matchup with Barcelona.

To compound Barcelona's defensives woes, it has been revealed that Javier Mascherano has gone down with a muscle injury and is set to be out until mid-December. 

Valencia also have their own defensive issues as Jelson Murillo picked up a knock in their last fixture against Espanyol and is a doubt for the game.

Potential Valencia line-up: Neto, Montoya, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya, Pereira, Soler, Kondogbia, Guedes, Rodrigo, Zaza

Potential Barcelona line-up: Ter-Stegen, Semedo, Umtiti, Vermaelen, Alba, Paulinho, Busquets, Rakitic, Messi, Suarez, Deulofeu

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Prediction

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With both sides off to a flying start to the season, a tightly contested affair could be expected, with an array of attacking talent. Barcelona will look to prove their dominance of La Liga and enforce themselves on a Valencia side that is flying high to start the season. 

Both Simon Zaza and Lionel Messi are big goal threats and there will be a huge emphasis on trying to stop both men from putting the ball in the back of the net. 

Prediction: Barcelona 3-2 Valencia