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Injury-hit Barcelona take on troubled Valencia
Published : 14 Sep 2019, 02:31
FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will once again be without the injured Lionel Messi as his side entertain Valencia in the Camp Nou stadium on Saturday night.
After dropping five points in their first three games of the season, Barcelona can't afford any more slip-ups, but Valverde has no more attacking options than he did before the international break, as Messi continues his recovery from a pre-season calf injury.
Luis Suarez has a slight chance of making the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the opening day defeat at Athletic Bilbao, while Ousmane Dembele is also out with an injury he picked up in the same game.
Rafinha, who replaced Suarez in Bilbao and started at home to Real Betis and away to Osasuna, is no longer at the club having moved on loan to Celta Vigo, so youngster Carles Perez could continue in the starting 11, while 16-year-old Ansu Fati could make his first start.
It will be interesting to see if Valverde recalls Ivan Rakitic after the Croatian spent Barca's last two matches on the bench as the club looked to sell him before the transfer deadline. Given that Rakitic has been a key player for Valverde, it would be no surprise to see the Croatian back in action after a decision that looked to be imposed by the club, rather than taken entirely by the coach.
However, if Barcelona have problems, they pale into insignificance compared with Valencia, who sacked coach Marcelino Garcia Toral on Wednesday and replaced him with Albert Celades.
Internal disagreements saw Marcelino shown the door after taking Valencia to two fourth place finishes and a Copa del Rey final victory over Barcelona at the end of last season, and it remains to be seen whether Celades can repeat his success in what is his first appointment as head coach of a top-flight club.
Several Valencia players took to social media after Marcelino's sacking to publicly thank him for his work, and Celades clearly has his work cut out stepping into the former coach's shoes, especially with a visit to the Camp Nou just three days away.