Barcelona seek reaction to alarming slide

Madrid, PTI | Updated : 15 April 2016, 03:56 PM

Barcelona host Valencia on Sunday desperately in need of a win to arrest a slide of three defeats in four games and prevent losing their grip on the La Liga title race.

The Catalans still lead Atletico Madrid by three points with six games remaining, but were dumped out of the Champions League by Atletico on Wednesday as their quest to deliver a second consecutive treble was killed off.

“It is clear we are not in our best moment of the season,” said Barca defender Gerard Pique.

“In the world of football perfect seasons don’t exist.

“We need to keep going in the two competitions we have still in play.”

Barca in particular need a reaction from their star front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have gone off the boil at the business end of the season.

Messi hasn’t netted for five games, whilst Neymar has also failed to score from open play as Barca have won just once in their last five matches.

“We need to lift ourselves because we still have two very attractive goals to obtain,” added Barca coach Luis Enrique.

However, Barca’s only change from the 11 that started at the Calderon in midweek is likely to come in goal where Claudio Bravo will replace Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Valencia can also approach the game in a much more relaxed state after Alvaro Negredo’s last minute winner against Sevilla last time out moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone in Pako Ayestaran’s first home game in charge since replacing the sacked Gary Neville.

The visitors also have revenge in mind having been thrashed 7-0 on their last visit to the Camp Nou during Neville’s reign in February.

“Barcelona aren’t the same as when we played against them and, with our strengths, we will try to get a good result,” said defender Jose Luis Gaya.

Atletico could even draw level with Barca at the top of the table before kick-off at the Camp Nou as they host relegation threatened Granada at the Vicente Calderon.

Diego Simeone’s men have the most favourable run-in with four of their remaining six games at home.

However, they still need Barca to drop points in at least two games due to their inferior head-to-head record with the Catalans.

Fernando Torres will return to the Atletico line-up after being suspended for the Barcelona return leg after scoring in each of his last three appearances.

First Published: Friday, April 15, 2016 03:47 PM
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