With no time to dwell on their consecutive losses to Girona and Royal Antwerp, FC Barcelona is geared up for a pivotal clash against Valencia at Mestalla this Saturday, December 16th, in a crucial La Liga EA Sports encounter. The mission is crystal clear: reignite their winning form and secure a vital three points to kickstart their much-anticipated resurgence.
The build-up to the Mestalla visit has escalated, amplifying the intrigue surrounding Barcelona's squad selection. The roster dynamics underwent a significant twist after Xavi's initial list for the Belgium trip was reshaped on the same travel day, triggering the 'de Jong incident.'
Sitting seven points adrift of Girona, the current league leaders, and trailing five behind second-placed Real Madrid, Barcelona finds themselves under immense pressure to claim victory or risk slipping further away from the title race.
Xavi’s selected squad includes a mix of established names and rising talents, emphasizing the need for a cohesive and competitive lineup to take on Valencia. This match stands as a litmus test for Xavi Hernandez's team, following their lackluster performance at the Bosuilstadion. The Barça coach faces the challenge of tapping into the full potential of his squad, contemplating potential alterations from the starting XI that faced Atlético de Madrid and Girona.
On the flip side, Valencia, led by Rubén Baraja, faces its hurdles. The absences of key players like Javi Guerra and Gabriel Paulista due to suspension necessitates strategic replacements. Diakhaby and Amallah emerge as strong contenders, while uncertainties loom over the availability of Gayà and André Almeida due to physical concerns.
Predicted lineups (h/t Sport) paint an intense picture for the anticipated showdown:
Valencia CF: Mamardashvili; Correia, Diakhaby, Mosquera, Yarek; Pepelu, Amallah; Foulquier, Diego López, Fran Pérez; Hugo Duro.
FC Barcelona: Iñaki Peña; Cancelo, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Gündogan, De Jong, Pedri; Lamine Yamal, Lewandowski, Joao Félix.
As the clock ticks down to kick-off, the spotlight intensifies on Mestalla, setting the stage for a high-stakes battle where both sides are poised to leave it all on the field in pursuit of pivotal points in their La Liga campaign.