It will be far from an easy task for Ernesto Valverde’s men against a Valencia team which has climbed up to third place in the table, overtaking Real Madrid, with a run of five consecutive wins which has seen them concede just one goal.
Barca are very much in charge of their destiny in La Liga, holding an enormous 11-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid with just seven games remaining, but this weekend’s meeting is all about restoring morale ahead of next weekend’s Copa del Rey Final against Sevilla.
Here are the main talking points ahead of the Camp Nou clash.
VALVERDE FEELING THE HEAT?
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde – who had a brief but successful spell in charge of Valencia in 2012/13 – has been widely praised for his team’s excellent season, which has seen them remain unbeaten in La Liga so far.
But it has been a distinctly different environment for the former Athletic Bilbao boss in the last few days, with Valverde heavily criticised for his role in the calamitous upset in Rome on Tuesday.
Valverde has been accused of failing to prepare his squad for the decisive latter months of the campaign by giving key players inadequate amounts of rest earlier on. He has also been slammed for badly managing the contest in the Italian capital by refusing to make any substitutions until 80 minutes had been played, despite the terrible performance his team was offering.
During Friday’s pre-game press conference Valverde insisted he was not bothered by the criticism, observing that such intense scrutiny is a natural accompaniment to his job, but a bad start in this encounter could well see the Camp Nou faithful turn against the coach for the first time – with his future at the club maybe even coming under threat.
With next weekend’s cup final looming, the last thing Valverde needs is an extension of the negativity which has swamped the club since Tuesday night, and to avoid another very uncomfortable week he desperately needs a strong response from his team this weekend.
ALL CHANGE IN MIDFIELD?
Valverde will be forced into a midfield reshuffle, with Ivan Rakitic ruled out through a hand injury while fellow stalwart Sergio Busquets is a doubt with the remnants of a foot problem which clearly hampered him during the midweek Champions League debacle.
Losing both players would present Valverde with a serious headache so he is likely to select Busquets if at all possible, but there is also a question mark over the selection of skipper Andres Iniesta with the 33 year-old appearing to suffer from the effects of fatigue more than anyone.
One player almost certain to come into the starting line-up is Philippe Coutinho, who was cup-tied in midweek, while there could also be a start for French winger Ousmane Dembele, who many observers believe should have been introduced much earlier against Roma.
Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez and Paulinho are other options, and the release of the teamsheet an hour before kick-off will certainly make interesting reading.
HIGH-FLYING VALENCIA SEEKS ANOTHER SCALP
This has been a fabulous season for Valencia, whose current run of five straight wins – and eight in nine – has seen them become serious contenders for a second-place finish at the end of coach Marcelinho’s first year in charge.
Barca’s defence will certainly not have it easy against hard-working front pairing Simone Zaza and Rodrigo, with the latter scoring in five consecutive games and looking a good bet to earn a place in Spain’s World Cup squad.
One factor counting in Valencia’s favour has been a lack of European football, allowing Marcelinho’s men to retain higher levels of physical fitness than their rivals – which could be particularly important in this encounter considering the jaded appearance of several key Barca players.
Valencia have already taken points off Real, Atletico and Barca this season, and they are travelling to Camp Nou this weekend full of confidence in their ability to earn another big-name scalp. Is La Liga’s title race set to be reignited?
He has been one of the best himself this season, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen has named who he believes are the five best goalkeepers in the world at the moment.
The Barcelona man refused to name who he felt was number one, but gave five stoppers who he feels are at the top of their game at the moment.
“There are a lot of very good ones. There is (David) de Gea,” ter Stegen told reporters ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Roma.
“There is Neuer. There is Buffon – who is still in really good shape. Alisson, but I’ve not watched him a lot. Ederson, but there are a lot of goalkeepers who can make a difference.”
Watch the video above for the goalkeeper’s full answer.
Lionel Messi has been so integral to Barcelona and Argentina for over a decade that supporters must often wonder what life would be like without the mericual striker.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will turn 31 in June and signed a new contract last November that will keep him at the Camp Nou until the end of the 2021 season.
Although he looks like a magician every time the ball is at his feet, he can’t go on forever and Barcelona without Messi is a scary thought.
His former team-mate Ronaldinho – a two-time World Player of the Year – hopes a suitable heir will soon emerge at the Camp Nou.
“We just have to cross our fingers and hope that someone comes along with half of his ability,” the Brazilian told Yahoo. “That would already be enough.
“I will never get tired of eulogising Léo. He’s not just a great player; he’s a great person, a great human being. That’s the kind of thing we must never tire of praising.
“And when he gets on that field… well then we could end speaking for a whole year about Messi. He evolves with every game. Léo is a living legend and we must treat him with so much respect.”