La Liga: Valencia test leaves Barca no time to bask in Paris joy
Barcelona have little time to rest on their laurels after a stunning victory over Paris Saint-Germain in midweek as the Catalans quest for a treble continues when Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Saturday
Madrid: Barcelona have little time to rest on their laurels after a stunning victory over Paris Saint-Germain in midweek as the Catalans quest for a treble continues when Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Luis Enrique. Pic/AFP
Luis Enrique's men all but secured their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 3-1 dismantling of the French champions thanks to two wonderful goals from Luis Suarez. However, a 2-2 draw away to Sevilla last weekend means should Barca suffer one more slip-up between now and the end of the league campaign, the destiny of the title will be in Real Madrid's hands.
"We learned our lesson from the game against Sevilla. In Paris we played a more complete game and that shows in the scoreline," said defender Gerard Pique, who made his 300th appearance for the club at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
"We are very confident. The dressing room is very happy, but we have our feet on the ground. We know the most difficult part (of the season) is yet to come being leaders of La Liga, in the final of the Copa del Rey and with a result in our favour to qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League. "From now on every game is like a final and we don't have time to rest.
First we have Valencia, then PSG in the Camp Nou. The schedule is very difficult, but if we want to win as many titles as possible we have to accept it and move on." Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta is a doubt after suffering heavy bruising on his lower back against PSG, but Dani Alves will return from suspension to take his place at right-back. Valencia are in need of the points themselves as they battle with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla for the final two Champions League places for next season.
Los Che stunned the Nou Camp last February with a 3-2 win and striker Alvaro Negredo sees no reason why they can't repeat that feat this weekend. "We know it will be very difficult to win at Camp Nou but my team-mates managed it last season," said the Spanish international. "Why not this year as well? It's very demanding, you have to be fully focused for 90 minutes and we are going to try and take all three points."
Valencia will be boosted by the return of full-back Jose Luis Gaya from injury despite continuing speculation about a move to Real Madrid next season for the 19-year-old. Madrid host Malaga later on Saturday and could move back to the top of the table should Barca fail to win.
The European champions were frustrated by Atletico Madrid in a 0-0 Champions League quarter-final, first leg draw on Tuesday and can't afford to let their minds wander ahead of next week's decisive return against Los Rojiblancos at the Santiago Bernabeu. Malaga have already shown their ability to upset the odds this season by beating Barcelona at the Camp Nou in February and by holding the league leaders and Atletico to draws at La Rosaleda.
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema missed training due to minor injuries on Thursday, but both are expected to be fit to take their place alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the Madrid attack. Atletico, meanwhile, will face a hostile atmosphere when they travel to meet Deportivo la Coruna. The champions' 2-0 win over the Galicians in November was overshadowed by the death of a Deportivo fan in fighting between rival supporters groups in Madrid.
However, Atletico midfielder Koke said his side's focus will be purely on the three points. "Our objective is to qualify for the Champions League, to be third and not have to play a qualifying round. "The rivals are a concern for us, they are forcing us to battle, to continue winning and we have to go there on Saturday with a lot of desire to take the three points."