FC Barcelona (1st, 59pts) vs Valencia CF (19th, 23pts)
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 24
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Robert Lewandowski, Pedri, Ousmane Dembélé, Gavi (out)
Valencia Outs & Doubts: José Gayà, Gabriel Paulista, Edinson Cavani, Jaume Doménech, Nico González, Marcos André (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, March 5, 2023, 4.15pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 3.15pm GMT (UK), 10.15am ET, 7.15am PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Javier Alberola Rojas
VAR: Santiago Jaime Latre
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada, India), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
Following a morale-boosting victory in El Clásico in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, Barcelona return to action with a crucial La Liga match at home as they welcome Valencia to the Greatest Stadium on Earth on Sunday afternoon.
The Blaugrana badly needed the win at the Bernabéu after two tough losses last week, and to do it with their defense while missing their three best attacking players was actually more encouraging and impressive than the general reaction seems to be.
Barça showed a side of them that’s been missing for so long and has really become the identity of Xavi Hernández’s team over the last year: they might not play well, but they’ll fight for every inch and not give up. That’s an important attitude to have during a tough stretch of results and injuries, and it’ll ultimately help Barça in the future as the squad becomes healthier, stronger and more talented.
The victory in Madrid restored the confidence and allows the team to go into three massive games in the league with less pressure and anxiety. The next two weeks will go a long way in deciding the title for the Blaugrana, who face Valencia on Sunday, then travel to San Mamés to meet Athletic Bilbao and return home for a gigantic El Clásico in the final match before the international break.
Maintaing their seven-point lead at the top of the table before they have a chance to increase that gap in a head-to-head matchup with their biggest rivals in the main priority in the next two matches, and they can’t afford to make any mistakes especially with a much smaller margin for error due to the injuries to their best players.
Pedri, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembélé and the suspended Gavi are missing this one, but the good news is Barça are facing a Valencia side that is in the relegation zone and missing six starters due to injury, including their best player in left-back José Gayà and their best striker in Edinson Cavani.
They lost five in a row in the league before an ugly win over Real Sociedad last week, and come to Camp Nou simply trying to survive and perform a miracle without their best players. This isn’t the Valencia of previous years, and big clubs in relegation battles are under even more pressure than teams that are used to the bottom every season.
Barça are big favorites even with four crucial starters missing, and they must return to winning ways in the league and put pressure on Real Madrid to not drop any points on their tough trip to Real Betis. It’s a must-win and must-perform, and Barça have to be serious and professional from the very start.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Roberto; Raphinha, Ferran, Fati
Valencia (4-5-1): Mamardashvili; Correia, Cömert, Diakhaby, Lato; Foulquier, Musah, Guillamón, Almeida, Lino; Duro
Valencia are so low on confidence and missing so many key players through injury that it’s hard to see them truly competing against a Barça side that knows the importance of winning this one: 2-0 to the good guys.