One of the toughest away games in La Liga for Barcelona takes place on Saturday, as the Catalan giants travel to the Mestalla Stadium in what promises to be a very difficult game against Valencia.
The Bats have had another tumultous start to the season, but they've recovered quite well and won three of their last four games, with the only defeat coming at the hands of unbeaten leaders Atlético Madrid. New manager Cesare Prandelli has only been at the job for three weeks, but we can already a see a more organized side that will bring the fight to the Blaugrana.
Barça are in very good form since the return from the international break with two straight 4-0 wins against Deportivo La Coruña and Manchester City, but the circumstances surronding the win against City have made things hard for coach Luis Enrique. Two of his best defenders, Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba, suffered injuries in midweek and will not return until after the November break, so Lucho will have a bit of a selection headache on Saturday to form his defense.
The good news is that Sergi Roberto will be fully fit to play. He was medically cleared but Enrique decided to go with Javier Mascherano at right-back, with Roberto watching from the stands to be completely fit for the Valencia match. Sergi will start, it's almost a guarantee. Mascherano will then move to the center of defense, with Lucas Digne probably replacing the injured Alba at left-back.
The doubt is about Mascherano's partner, with Sammy Umtiti and Jérémy Mathieu battling for the spot. Umtiti was unreal against City, but it was his first game back from injury, so Lucho might give the nod to Mathieu. The best choice is obviously Sammy, but we never know.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets is fundamental to the side and is back in good form, so he'll start again. Andrés Iniesta doesn't usually start with only two days rest from the previous match, but he was substituted against City, which might indicate Lucho planned to start him at Mestalla. His replacement, André Gomes, may have a good chance to play against his former team from the first whistle, but Rafinha Alcântara is also fighting for a start while Ivan Rakitic gets a rest.
Up front, while Paco Alcácer also has a chance to play against his former club, there is no doubt that the 'MSN' trio is playing here. Messi will have a week to rest after this game, so there's very little concern about another injury. Luis Suárez didn't play in the second half against Deportivo so he could play 90 minutes against City and Valencia, and Neymar's ability to recover combined with no midweek action next week guarantees him a starting place against the Bats as well.
So with all of that considered, this is the likely Barça lineup to start at Mestalla:
The Barça Blaugranes community also voted on their favorite lineup, and it was a tight one. Plenty of midfielders got a good number of votes, but in the end you wanted the same starting eleven as above, with the only exception being Rakitic in place of André Gomes. I love it when we agree!
Get ready for Mathieu at left-back!