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Barcelona v Valencia: Out-of-sorts champions must refocus after European exit

Barcelona must regroup from their Champions League exit in order to get their La Liga ambitions back on track at home to Valencia on Sunday.

A month ago Barca were cruising towards the defence of their league title, while a repeat of last season’s Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble was still on track.

However, Luis Enrique’s men have suffered a surprise slump in form and a run of three league matches without victory – including back-to-back losses to rivals Real Madrid, and Real Sociedad – has left them just three points clear of Atletico Madrid, and four ahead of Real.

Barca’s misery was compounded on Wednesday as they were knocked out of Europe by Atleti, a 2-0 loss consigning the Catalans to a 3-2 quarter-final aggregate defeat.

The downturn in form has coincided with a rare dry spell for superstar Lionel Messi, who has failed to score in his past five Barca outings in all competitions, with reports suggesting the Argentina forward is playing through injury.

There is little time to dwell on past results, though, as Barca – who are into the Copa final – attempt to clinch two more trophies.

“To the fans that go to Camp Nou on Sunday I ask you to back the team,” president Josep Bartomeu said before Sunday’s contest.

“There are only six Liga and one Copa del Rey matches left. If we get the double it will be a spectacular success.”

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, added to Marca: “My team-mates and I are athletes, we always work hard and want to win, that’s always our motivation.

“We didn’t achieve the result we wanted [against Atleti], but we will bounce back stronger than ever.”

Barca battered Valencia 7-0 at Camp Nou in the Copa in February, but they will come up against a side celebrating their first win since Pako Ayestaran replaced Gary Neville – a 2-1 win at home to Sevilla that ended a four-match losing streak.

Los Ches also earned a 1-1 draw against Barca in November’s reverse fixture, and their goalscorer on that day Santi Mina insists the cup thrashing will have no bearing on the latest encounter.

“The squad has forgotten about that bad result, but we have a little thorn in our side,” he told Valencia’s official website.

“It was a day to forget, we did not go out there with the intensity required at a ground like Camp Nou. I think now we are focused on not letting that happen again.

“The key of the game hinges on being a team and staying very close. Barcelona are one of the best clubs in the world. 

“We have to be mentally prepared because we will have our chances and with the quality we have we can get the victory.”


Key Opta stats:

– Valencia have won just one of their last 17 games against Barcelona in La Liga (drawing five, losing 11) though it did come at Camp Nou (3-2 in 2014).
– Barcelona have gone three La Liga games in a row without a win (drawing one, losing two), which is their worst run with Luis Enrique in charge.
– Valencia have conceded at least once in their last 22 league games, which is their worst run of conceding in their top-flight history.
– Barcelona have not lost three games in a row in La Liga since February 2003, while they have not gone four without a win since May 2009.
– Lionel Messi has scored ten goals in his nine league games against Valencia at the Camp Nou.

Fri 15 Apr, 2016
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