Three points equals breathing space

Los Culés and Los Ches will both be keen to seal maximum points this evening (20:30 CET), but for different reasons at the top and middle of the table.
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Three points equals breathing space

This is not just Barcelona’s worst spell this season, but possibly in recent times. A well-oiled machine that has become accustomed to winning in style, Barcelona have missed their winning formula over the past few weeks, and appear to have lost their vim and verve, particularly among the front three – when Messi, Neymar and Suárez turn a lighter shade of grey it seeps through the whole side.

Luis Enrique’s men were knocked out, or muscled out, of the Champions League by Simeone’s Atlético in midweek, not to mention the twelve-point lead at the top of LaLiga that has slipped through their fingers. Yet the Barça coach is looking forward rather than back: "The team looks fine to me, they've recovered, although it's always hard to swallow disappointment. But we're professionals and now we face another challenge, repeating a league and Cup double. It's going to be difficult for us, but we're confronting it with excitement".

The key battles in this game will see Piqué and Mascherano pitted against Rodrigo and Alcácer, who has recovered for this clash, while André Gomes and Parejo will join forces with André Gomes and Parejo as they attempt to come between the passing intricacies of Busquets, Rakitic and Iniesta. Abdennour and Luis Suárez will also have a score to settle after the Valencia defender took to social media to show the world the stud marks left by the Uruguayan in the first fixture between the two sides, which ended 1-1, in the Mestalla.

This backdrop of duels and tussles, however, does not mask the fact that three points will be precious for both clubs' respiratory systems, but for different reasons: Valencia can climb away from the relegation zone and Barcelona can keep their closest rivals at bay.