Rare is the occasion when a Barcelona v Valencia fixture is an 8th v 10th placed affair, but that’s precisely what this coming Saturday’s return to La Liga action is.

An indifferent start by Los Che, which mirrors their beginning to the last campaign, hasn’t been bettered by Barca who only sit above them thanks to having scored one more goal in their three games so far.

For Valencia, behind-the-scenes issues with owner Peter Lim has to have contributed to their start of one draw (Real Sociedad), one loss (Celta Vigo) and one win (Mallorca).

The team from Mestalla simply haven’t got going yet, and with the Champions League beginning for them at Chelsea just three days after this one, that’s not the kind of form that they need to be in.

Valencia's Spanish coach Marcelino Garcia Toral gestures during the Spanish League football match between Celta Vigo and Valencia at the Balaidos stadium in Madrid on August 24, 2019. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ernesto Valverde can probably point to the Neymar fiasco as a major disrupting factor for his team, but the truth is that they were moribund as an attacking force in their opener (Athletic Club) and should’ve killed the Osasuna game off once they’d taken the lead.

Against Real Betis, thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s prowess, the Blaugrana looked much more like their old selves, and with Lionel Messi returning to the line up to play his first match of the season on Saturday, it’s likely we’ll see more of that Barca against Valencia.

Gabriel Paulista might have something to say about that of course. The last time the defender marked the Argentinian, in last season’s Copa del Rey final, he did a pretty good job of frustrating him, even if you take the view that Barca were still smarting from their Liverpool humiliation.

Messi did score on that occasion, and he’ll be looking to open his 2019/20 account against one of his favourite opponents again.

With Luis Suarez also expected to play, Barca really do have a three-headed attacking monster that Valencia’s back four will do well to contain.

Barcelona's Argentinian striker Lionel Messi (L) and Barcelona's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez warm up before the UEFA Champions league semi-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 7, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Certainly, the need to be attentive will limit Jose Gaya’s forays down the line, leaving Goncalo Guedes without an overlapping left-back in an area the visitors will want to target.

Nelson Semedo was stretchered off for Portugal during the international break, and though his injury isn’t as bad as was first feared, Ernesto Valverde may look to either move Sergi Roberto back there, or bring in Moussa Wague, a more natural fit in the right-back slot.

Captain and midfielder, Dani Parejo, will get involved in everything for Valencia, and when Los Che are further advanced with him on the ball, the movement of both Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo, against what has been a fairly static Barcelona defence this season, will dictate how successful they are in front of goal.

Frenkie De Jong deserves a shot in his rightful midfield position for the hosts, as his performance for the Netherlands against Germany showed, and Arthur also did enough in his cameo against Osasuna to be considered for a starting spot here.

Goals and excitement are virtually a given in this fixture, so strap yourselves in!

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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