Barcelona 4 - 2 Valencia: match report
Eliaqium Mangala experienced a night of extremes at Camp Nou, as valiant Valencia fell to defeat at the hands of Barcelona. The towering Frenchman opened the scoring for the visitors with a neatly-guided header, but was sent off shortly before half time for an unequivocal professional foul on Luis Suárez. That man Suárez equalised for Barça, before Messi converted a penalty to give the hosts an advantage. On the brink of half time, Munir finished a Valencian counter attack with aplomb to ensure that the first half ended two goals apiece. Yet after the break, Messi added another goal, before André Gomes sealed the win from close range to take Barça within a point of league-leaders Real Madrid.
Taking to the Camp Nou turf for the first time since an historic comeback against PSG in the Champions League, Barcelona started the match with a flurry. With two minutes on the clock, Iniesta played a pass to Suárez through the eye of a needle, but there was nobody on hand to convert the Uruguayan's cutback.
Yet it was at the other end where the first contentious decision of the night arrived. Fabián Orellana headed a deep cross towards the penalty spot, only for the ball to richochet off Rakitic. Replays did not conclusively indicate whether it hit the Croat's arm, or midriff. Soon after Barcelona had a penalty shout of their own waved away, Valencia opened the scoring through an unlikely source. From a corner, Eliaqium Mangala slipped away from his marker and guided a low header in to the net.
But Barça, encouraged by an eager crowd, did not trail for long. After 35 minutes, a lapse of concentration by Valencia's defence allowed Neymar to throw the ball directly to Suárez, who finished comfortably. Shortly before half time, Mangala regressed, conforming to the calamitous image that many in England hold of him, as a result of unconvincing displays for Manchester City. He tugged at the shirt of Luis Suárez, and the striker collapsed in a heap. As Suárez was clean through on goal, Mangala received his marching orders for a professional foul. It was a straightforward decision for referee Hernandéz Hernandéz. Messi calmly dispatched the spot kick.
There was more to come in a glorious, flowing first half. Gayá galloped forward from left back, taking advantage of the space on the flanks made available by Barça's 3-4-3 system. He squared the ball for Munir who, against his parent club, placed the ball in the bottom corner.
After the break, the ten men of Valencia were unable to survive the waves of Barcelona attack. On 52 minutes, Messi found enough space to rifle a ferocious shot in at the near post. One could question the positioning of goalkeeper Diego Alves, who has now conceded 21 goals against the Argentine, but the shot was struck hard and from close range.
Barcelona failed to kill the game as they would have liked. The visitors remained dangerous on the counter attack, while Luis Suárez missed a glorious to seal the match. Neymar thundered a free kick against the woodwork, but the Brazilian made no mistake in the 88th minute when he presented the ball on a plate to substitute André Gomes, who slotted Barça's fourth of the night against his former club.
Barcelona 4 - 2 Valencia: second half live
FT - Barcelona take the three points. A thrilling encounter at Camp Nou. The hosts close the gap on Real Madrid to just one point.
Min 90 | Montoya booked for a cynical foul. He was trying to prevent a Barça counter attack.
Min 88 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! Andre Gomes turns in Neymar's low cross. Valencia had committed numbers forward in search of an elusive equaliser, which allowed the Brazilian plenty of space on the left flank.
Min 87 | Parejo tries to send Zaza through, but they're not on the same wavelength and Barça regain possession. Meanwhile, Bakkali is on for Cancelo.
Min 85 | Messi embarks on a mazy, thirty yard run. He beats several, but is halted eventually by Abdennour. Neymar curls the resultant loose ball over the bar.
Min 82 | Garay, an Argentine, and Suarez, a Uruguyuan, have a Rioplatense grapple on the edge of the box. The free kick goes in favour of the home side. Suarez takes it himself, and thunders the ball in to the wall. Barça look very dangerous, but could really do with another goal. The Valencia counter attacks, although infrequent, are usually threatening.
Min 81 | Andre Gomes is the next player to be booked.
Min 78 | It's now Valencia with a free kick, about 30 yards out. It comes to nothing, and Barcelona gallop up the pitch. Neymar jiggles his feet, lays it off to Gomes, and there's some pinball in the box. Eventually it falls to Neymar who attempts to catch Alves off guard by shooting through the open legs of a defender. Nice idea, but it doesn't work. The shot is feeble.
Min 76 | Cancelo hauls down Iniesta, and Barça have a free kick in a dangerous position. It's in prime Messi territory.
Min 74 | Both teams make a change. For Valencia, Zaza replaces Munir. The striker must have eventually finished his penalty run up for Italy at the Euros. For Barça, Andre Gomes is on for Rafinha.
Min 72 | Oh, Luis. Uncharacteristic miss from Suarez. Alves can only parry Messi's shot in to the path of the ex-Liverpool striker. With the goal gaping, he skews it wide. In his defence, he had very little time to react.
Min 71 | Parejo seeks Munir, but the striker had strayed offside. Parejo is subsequently in a huff. Whether he's irritated by Munir or the linesman, I'm not sure. Either way, there's a lot of arm-waving.
Min 67 | Iniesta enters the referee's book after a cynical swipe at Enzo Perez.
Min 66 | Rafinha whips a shot towards goal, but Alves is impeccably-positioned to smother it.
Min 66 | Neymar flashes a ball right through the corridor of uncertainty. There is a queue of blue-and-red shirts sliding in, but it just evades them.
Min 65 | Luis Enrique makes his first substitution of the evening. Sergi Roberto enters in the place of Rakitic. Camp Nou greets his arrival with a growl of appreciation, following his sensational last-minute goal against PSG.
Min 63 | Side netting from Suarez! He is so lively tonight. Played in by a glorious pass by Messi, he shoots just wide from a narrow angle. The pass was irresistible, Messi waited on the ball until the opportune moment. Great vision and execution, but then, we expect nothing less from him.
Min 61 | Iniesta cuts in from the left and attempts to bend a shot to the far post. But's it is a tame effort.
Min 58 | It's end-to-end, frantic stuff at the moment. Luis Enrique would prefer a more measured pattern of play. Rakitic finds himself in space in the box, but instead of shooting, he threads the ball through to an onrushing Neymar, who tumbles with a defender and flops down in a heap. No penalty. Rakitic really should have shot himself.
Min 57 | Oooh Munir nearly notches an equaliser. The youngster twists and turns in the box following a swift counter attack, but it's one twirl too many. Pique takes the ball off his toes.
Min 56 | Suarez is in behind once again, but the ball runs away from him and in to the arms of the goalkeeper. Barça are looking insatiable. They're threatening with every attack.
Min 52 | GOAAAALLLLL! Messi re-establishes Barcelona's lead. He riggles in the box and finds enough space to get a shot away on his right foot. It's a ferocious effort and Alves is unable to prevent it flashing in at the near post.
Min 51 | Sublime, logic-defying save from Alves. Messi slides in Neymar and, one-on-one, the Brazilian tries to trick the goalkeeper by shaping to shoot to the far post, but actually aiming for the near post. Alves denies him with his shin and the ball spins away for a corner
Min 49 | Suarez stretches for a through ball, but can't quite get it under control. He would have been clean through. Moments later, Neymar juggles his way through the defence with the ball bouncing and bobbling. He gets as far as Diego Alves, but can't convert.
Min 47 | I'm not sure Valencia have touched the ball yet this half. Luis Enrique's chaps have them pegged in. The visiting team are defending with two rigid, dare I say Pulisian, banks of four.
Min 46 | We're back underway. The ten men of Valencia will need to muster all of their positional discipline and concentration in the upcoming 45 minutes.
The teams are strolling back out. Valencia's kit looks very smart. Like Sevilla's, it benefits from not having a sponsor.
Barcelona 2 - 2 Valencia: first half live
And... relax. What a sumptuous first half at Camp Nou; four goals and a red card. Valencia opened the scoring through Mangala, on loan from Manchester City. But they couldn't hold on. Six minutes later, Los Che had a momentary lapse of concentration, as a throw in from Neymar on the left flank set up Luis Suarez to roll the ball in to the bottom corner. On the cusp of half time, Mangala tugged at the shirt of Suarez in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot without a moment of hesitation. Messi stroked the subsequent penalty in to the net, thus scoring his 20th goal against Diego Alves. There was time for yet more action, as Munir finished off a slick counter attack to send the two teams in for the break at 2-2.
HT - Referee Hernández Hernández calls time on a rip-roaring first half.
Min 46 | GOAAALLLL Valencia! This is positively barmy! Gaya squares the ball to Munir, who guides the ball in to the bottom corner against his parent club. That was a smashing run by the full back to lay on the assist. Valencia exploiting Barça's susceptibility on the flanks; that's the issue with the three-man defence.
Min 45 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! Alves dives despairingly to his left, but Messi slides the ball straight down the middle.
Min 44 | Penalty to Barça and a straight red card for Mangala! Suarez steams through, Mangala tugs at his shirt, and it's an early bath for the Frenchman. Talk about hero to zero. Messi to take.
Min 42 | Suarez breaks to the byline and, with Alves rushing out to meet him, slides the ball across of goal. It trickles along the goal line, but nobody is on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Min 39 | Ooft, Messi wasn't far wide of the mark. He flashes the shot just over the bar, with that wand-like left foot. You never get a 'wand of a right foot', do you?
Min 38 | Free kick for Barça right on the edge of the Valencia box. Mangala cleans out Messi with a mistimed challenge and enters the book. It's almost 'too close', it'll be tricky to get the ball over the wall and back down again. Messi is over it, pulling up his socks.
Min 35 | GOOOAALLLL! Barça equalise through Suarez. It's woeful defending from Valencia; Neymar plays in his MSN pal directly from a throw in. The Uruguayan rolls the ball in to the far corner with his right foot. He very, very rarely misses from there.
Min 33 | Los Che are defending in numbers, but also counter-attacking with admirable intent. The bus is not parked. That said, they're leaving themselves a little vulnerable. A move breaks down and Barça charge up the pitch. Rafinha get a shot away from 25 yards, but white shirts hurl themselves across to block.
Min 30 | Barça are straight back on the attack, zipping the ball around in the final third. Everyone is behind the ball for Valencia.
Min 29 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! It's Valencia who take the lead through, of all people, Mr Mangala. He loses Rakitic at a corner, which seems like a mismatch in any case, and guides the ball in to the bottom corner.
Min 26 | Penalty shout for Barca is waved away by the referee. Neymar went down after receiving a nudge in the back. I've seen 'em given. The Valencia defenders will need to be a little more streetwise.
Min 24 | First booking of the evening. It's Enzo Perez of Valencia who receives it, after he scythed down Neymar. That was cynical, and rather unsurprising. Perez is only just back from suspension.
Min 23 | Almost a calamitous blunder by Montoya, against his former club. He attempts to intercept a long, diagonal pass meant for Neymar, but his touch lets him down. He just about recovers before the Brazilian can nip in.
Min 21 | The home side are finding it mildly difficult to play out from the goalkeeper. The Valencia front three are man-marking the Barça back three, meaning Ter Stegen is having to look to one of the midfielders, usually Busquets, to drop deep and collect the ball.
Min 19 | Ter Stegen forced in to a save. Pique only half clears a cross, and it falls straight in to the path of Soler. He launches a rasping shot towards the Barça goal, but it's right at the 'keeper. Had it been either side of him, the German would have been in a pickle.
Min 16 | Messi curls a left footed shot narrowly wide, from just inside the box. It had a nice shape to it, but he couldn't generate enough curl.
Min 15 | Oooh, Barcelona go very close once more. And, once more, Suarez is the architect. He sells another dummy, this time to Garay, before feeding the ball to Messi. The Argentine turns it towards goal but it is blocked on the line by the face of a Valencia defender before Alves smothers it.
Min 13 | Six Valencia players in a line along the edge of their own box, just then. They're flooding their defensive third with players. Barça have settled in to a spell of possession now.
Min 10 | The Valencia wingers, Cancelo and Orellana, are getting chalk on their boots out on the flanks. They're both playing very wide. Presumably, their plan is to go around the sides of Barça's back three.
Min 8 | Up at the other end, Suarez comes very close again. He sent Mangala to the shops with a delightful dummy, there'll be GIFs made from that, but he is unable to poke his shot beyond the palms of Diego Alves.
Min 7 | Handba... no. Valencia players appeal for a penalty as Orellana nods the ball in to Rakitic's midriff. The referee waves play on.
Min 5 | Valencia put together their first meaningful attack. Cancelo gallops to the byline but can't manage to square it to his teammate waiting in the box. That was a really incisive, direct move by the visitors.
Min 2 | Early chance for the home side! Iniesta slips in Suarez with a typically-intelligent ball through the defensive lines. The Uruguayan slides it across the six yard box, but the Valencia defence get it away before Neymar arrives.
Min 1 | Peep! We're underway! Barça immediately settle in to possession. Shockingly, Cancelo is wearing the number 2 shirt despite playing in attack for the visitors.
Barcelona v Valencia: team news
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Mascherano, Pique, Umtiti, Busquets, Rafinha, Iniesta, Rakitic, Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
Coach: Luis Enrique
Valencia XI: Alves, Gayá, Mangala, Garay, Montoya, Pérez, Parejo, Carlos Soler, Orellana, Cancelo, Munir.
Coach: Salvador "Voro" González
Barcelona v Valencia: latest news
20:41 | The stage is set. Camp Nou is looking glorious 'under the lights'. The teams are gathering in the tunnel.
20:38 | Barça have been banging in the goals at home of late. 17 in their last three matches at Camp Nou, no less.
20:30 | 15 minutes to go until kick off. The man who will peep his whistle to start the match is Alejandro José Hernández Hernández. You can never have too many 'Hernándezes' in your name...
20:23 | The second-last time Valencia visited Camp Nou, Gary Neville was at the helm as they fell to a 7-0 thrashing. Suárez chipped in with a cool four goals on that occasion, while Messi also notched a hat-trick.
20:14 | A reminder that Barça now trail Real Madrid by four points at the top of La Liga. Zinedine Zidane's side stretched their lead with a 1-2 triumph against Athletic Club on Saturday afternoon.
20:10 | Valencia travel to Camp Nou with a rotten away record in recent weeks. Los Che have won just one of their last ten matches away from the Mestalla (Drawn thee, lost six). That solitary victory came against rivals Villarreal (0-2).
19:59 | In André Gomes, Paco Alcácer, and Jordi Alba, Barcelona have three ex-Valencia players on the bench. They didn't come cheap, either. The Gomes transfer has taken a rather large chunk out of the Catalan club's transfer kitty.
19:53 | Munir starts for Valencia. It's Father's Day here in Spain, but he will be looking to trouble his parent club. The youngster has scored four goals and provided three assists so far this season.
19:48 | For Valencia, Enzo Pérez returns from suspension and slots in to the midfield for the visitors.
19:45 | And we have team news! It looks like Luis Enrique will continue with a three-man defence. Neymar is fit to play after missing Barça's last match with a knock. Rafinha and Iniesta also come in.
19:30 | Speaking of Suárez, settle down for 20 minutes and read this superb long-form article on to his childhood in Uruguay, and the several layers that form his complex character.
19:22 | Alcácer's path to the Barcelona starting XI has faced a rather large, Luis Suárez-shaped obstacle. The Uruguayan has scored four goals in his last four games in all competitions.
19:18 | Paco Alcácer made the move up the Mediterranean coast from Valencia to Barça last summer. The grass hasn't necessarily been greener for the 23 year old; he has started for his new club just three times in La Liga so far this season.
19:10 | After today's match, Valencia host Deportivo in the next round of fixtures. The Galician club are currently contesting a Galician derby with Celta Vigo, it's 0-0 at Riazor as the game approaches half time.
19:03 | Barça have been rather well behaved this season. They're the only La Liga club not to have received a red card.
18:55 | Cruyff, Guardiola, Van Gaal... some of the names that spring to mind when thinking of iconic Barcelona managers. But it was an Irish tactician by the name of Patrick O'Connell who played a key role in the club's early history, even saving them from bankruptcy during his tenure.
18:48 | Simone Zaza is keen to extend his stay in Valencia. The Italian striker, on loan from Juventus, is close to triggering a clause that will oblige the Spanish club to buy him outright.
18:40 | Some light entertainment as we build up to kick off at Camp Nou; buccaneering former Barça full back Dani Alves dances with a bin on his head, as you do.
18:32 | Lionel Messi will be chuffed to see goalkeeper Diego Alves between the sticks for Valencia. He has put the ball in the Brazilian's net on 19 occasions.
18:27 | Valencia boss Voro is aware that his side will face a stern test at Camp Nou: "We will have to use our weapons properly to be at 100 per cent, and we will need to perform at a high level in every area to be able to compete with Barcelona", he said pre-match.
18:18 | Going in to this evening's fixture at Camp Nou, Barcelona are four points adrift of league-leaders Real Madrid. But Luis Enrique, speaking in the pre-match presser, maintains that there is still a long way to go: "I think the championship will be decided in the final matchdays because they are always the most decisive."
18:10 | Prior to their defeat at Riazor against Deportivo, Barça had been on a 19-match unbeaten run in La Liga.
17:55 | The upcoming Clásico clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona is shaping up to be key in the context of the La Liga title race. The match at the Bernebéu is set for the 23rd of April, just after both teams compete in the Champions League quarter-finals.
11:00 | There's plenty at stake in Camp Nou this evening as Barça host Valencia. Be sure not to miss a kick with our handy guide on how and where to watch the match.
Barcelona v Valencia: match preview
Barça take to the turf at Camp Nou for the first time since a mildly entertaining Champions League victory over PSG. Their opponents, Valencia, have been plagued by instability on and off the pitch in recent seasons. Luis Enrique will hope that his team can emerge from their post-PSG hangover. Last time out in La Liga, they slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Deportivo in Galicia, a result that allowed Real Madrid to sneak back to the summit of the table. Valencia have only won two of the last 19 matches against Barcelona, yet those two victories both came at Camp Nou; a 2-3 in 2014, and a 1-2 in 2016.
Luis Enrique will be eager to return to winning ways following the shock defeat at the Riazor last weekend.
Fleet-footed winger Neymar has a knock, but should be fit enough to start. He showed his worth to the team against PSG and, through his absence, against Deportivo as well. Tactically, Barça are likely to revert to a back-four, having deployed a 3-4-3 formation in recent matches.
Valencia travel north along the Mediterranean coast in search of their first victory in March. The club looked set to be embroiled in a relegation battle this season but Los Che, led by Salvador ‘Voro’ González, now in his fifth stint as caretaker at the Mestalla, sit comfortably in La Liga’s midriff.
Scoring goals remains an issue for Valencia. Young Santi Mina is the leading marksman in the league, but he has only found the net on five occasions.
Mina is unavailable through injury, as is leading assist-merchant Nani. Valencia have failed to win nine of their last ten away matches in La Liga. With two of their attacking outlets unavailable, it is difficult to foresee them troubling the Barça defence enough to end this barren run. Enzo Pérez returns from suspension, and will probably slot in to the midfield.
Barcelona have been in insatiable goal-scoring form at Camp Nou. In their last three home matches, they have clocked up 17 goals. It’s 2/9 for there to be more than 2.5 goals.
For the visitors, Simone Zaza, who spent an unremarkable first half of the season at West Ham, is 14/1 to open the scoring.