Probable Barcelona XI vs Valencia: Key forced change as Valverde’s men chase history

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Barcelona take on Valencia on Saturday hoping to not only take a step closer to winning the La Liga title, but also to create more history.

Should the Catalan giants avoid defeat this weekend, they will break a record that has stood since 1980, set by Real Sociedad who went 38 consecutive league games unbeaten.

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Barca equalled that record in last weekend’s win over Leganes, while they remain 11 points clear at the top of the standings this season as they edge ever closer to sealing the league crown.

However, Ernesto Valverde will have to ensure that his players deliver a performance to a restless faithful, who will still be furious after their elimination from the Champions League in midweek.

Despite holding a 4-1 advantage over Roma, the La Liga leaders capitulated in the Italian capital and lost 3-0 to be knocked out on the away goals rule.

In turn, further disappointment this season will not go down well, especially with domestic glory now seen as the minimum expectation at the Nou Camp.

As for his line-up against Valencia, Valverde will be forced into at least one change. As noted by Sport, midfield ace Ivan Rakitic was forced to undergo surgery this week on a hand injury picked up against Roma, and he will need to be replaced.

Sergi Samper and Lucas Digne remain sidelined by injury too, albeit the latter was confirmed to have returned to training this week, as per the tweet below, but Valverde doesn’t have any suspensions to be concerned with.

As a result, he arguably only has two real areas of concern, in midfield to fill the Rakitic void and at right-back with either Nelson Semedo or Sergi Roberto set to get the nod.

Given key individuals have played significant minutes this season, a quick glance at Barcelona’s Twitter feed in relation to Saturday’s squad will show that supporters are demanding some be rested. It remains to be seen if Valverde listens to those calls, but we don’t think it’s likely given what is at stake.

Probable Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Coutinho, Paulinho, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez.

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