From the moment Eliaquim Mangala headed Valencia in front, you couldn’t take your eyes off this game. He didn’t last the half, sent off for holding back Luis Suárez, who had equalised moments before. That penalty allowed Lionel Messi to put Barcelona ahead, but with seconds to go in the first half, Munir’s goal on the break stunned the hosts.
The on-loan Barcelona forward had two other clear chances to score as Valencia proved a threat on the break, but after Messi restored the lead, it was 100mph one-way traffic. Still, it took until the 89th minute for André Gomes, set up magnificently by Neymar, to seal the win against his old club. Thanks for joining me. Adios.
Full time: Barcelona 4-2 Valencia
That’s it, and after a thoroughly entertaining game, Barcelona cut the gap on Real Madrid to two points. Real have a game in hand, but Barcelona aren’t giving up the title any time soon.
90 mins: Two added minutes. Bakkali slips under pressure from Umtiti, and Montoya is booked for a foul on Neymar, who he’ll be seeing in his peripheral vision for weeks.
GOAL! Barcelona 4-2 Valencia (André Gomes 89')
Well, no, as it turns out. This is Gomes’ goal, but was all Neymar’s work, the Brazilian speeding past his marker down the left, slowing the pace to allow a team-mate to catch up, then drilling a cross to Gomes, who couldn’t miss.
88 mins: Bakkali gets involved for the first time, and Piqué has to crane his neck to clear. Can Valencia really get a point out of this?
87 mins: Messi is booked for a needless foul with the ball gone. He’s now suspended for the trip to relegation-haunted Granada after the international break.
86 mins: Messi dribbles straight down the middle, sending defenders to the turf before finding Neymar, whose shot is over. He would score a lot more if he didn’t insist on aiming for the very top corner.
85 mins: Bakkali is on for Cancelo, who was a real handful in the first half. Valencia have had 27% possession and, as it stands, 40% of the goals.
84 mins: Montoya does really well to keep possession as he moves infield, but he’s let down by Abdennour’s poor pass. Valencia are set to throw on Bakkali, a winger who’ll be looking to fire a few speculators at Zaza’s head.
82 mins: Suárez plays Garay completely, letting the ball bounce past as he backs into the defender, forcing the obstruction. Free kick, right on the edge of the box – but Suárez pounds it into the wall.
80 mins: Piqué has taken to wandering upfield because, well, what could go wrong? Heavy legs are preventing Valencia from getting out of their own half just now though.
79 mins: Barcelona continue to decline the opportunity to kill the game, Neymar playing in Gomes, who turns the ball backwards rather than shoot. Iniesta’s effort takes a deflection and bobbles beyond Suárez and Messi.
78 mins: Valencia break and get a free kick, 30 yards out but central. Parejo lines it up, but slips in the run-up, and the ball wafts through to Ter Stegen.
76 mins: Neymar takes a free kick from the same spot as that goal against PSG. Again, it’s curled over the wall, hangs in the air – but this time, crashes off the angle!
74 mins: Changes – André Gomes replaces Rafinha for the hosts, while Simone Zaza, who never did get that mural at the London Stadium, is on for Munir.
73 mins: More joy for Barcelona down the left flank, Neymar cutting inside, switching gears and firing his shot narrowly over.
72 mins: This is a dreadful miss from Suárez! Messi tests Alves with a low strike from the left of the area. The keeper can only parry it, admittedly at speed, into Suárez’s path, and the striker prods it wide. He looks furious with himself.
70 mins: Roberto has tucked into midfield as Luis Enrique sticks with his back three. As a more defensive player than Rakitic, he will presumably make a better job of dropping into that tricky right-back slot.
68 mins: Messi prods the ball into Suárez, whose lofted effort drifts wide of goal. It’s about the 30th attractive attacking move they’ve put together in this half, but they still lead by just the one goal.
67 mins: Iniesta buys a free kick from Montoya to stop a dangerous-looking Valencia attack. Moments later, he’s in the book for a clip on Enzo Pérez.
65 mins: Sergi Roberto, who scored the sixth against PSG, gets a rousing reception as he replaces Rakitic. Messi curls a pass from the left into Rakitic, whose shot is saved comfortably.
64 mins: Suárez hooks Iniesta’s pass first-time out wide to Neymar, who drills the ball across the face of goal. Iniesta and Suárez, racing into the area in formation, both just miss it.
62 mins: Barcelona have found a way to deal with Valencia’s dangerous D R/AM R, Cancelo – both Umtiti and Iniesta have sneakily tripped the wide man in recent minutes.
61 mins: Iniesta switches from left to right, and curls a shot towards the far post that Alves holds.
60 mins: Neymar’s cross finds Rafinha, whose scissor-kick flies straight at Alves – and anyway, he’s offside.
58 mins: On that, Rakitic and Rafinha are not offering enough – either in defence or attack – to justify this setup. Enrique should slot Roberto in at right-back soon, or he may come to regret it.
“Rafinha’s main occupation seems to be to prevent the ball going out of play on the right hand side of the pitch” says Charles Antaki. “Luis Enrique could either replace him with Sergi Roberto or just leave it to the ballboys.”
56 mins: Valencia almost break through again, Soler’s lovely diagonal pass allowing Munir to canter into open space down the left – but Piqué does very well to put the young striker under pressure, and he loses his footing at the crucial moment.
54 mins: Barcelona had been trying every trick in the book to break Valencia down, but that was entirely straightforward. Alves will be disappointed not to have saved that, particularly given his brilliant stop from Neymar seconds before.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-2 Valencia (Messi 53')
From the corner, Messi’s volley is closed down, but the ball is worked back to him by Mascherano. He muscles past Abdennour and strikes a low, firm shot that beats Alves at his near post!
52 mins: Barcelona break back, and Messi picks out Neymar, who is through one-on-one. He feints to shoot towards the far post, whips his shot to the near post – but Alves saves with his legs!
51 mins: Valencia will still feel they can create chances against Barcelona’s back three, and Soler has space to shoot, charging in from the left – but his shot is straight at Ter Stegen.
50 mins: Neymar tries a bit of outright sorcery to break through the Valencia defence, cutting in from the left with a couple of keepy-uppies. He’s just crowded out.
48 mins: Neymar cuts onto his right foot inside the box, but Garay is on hand to block. Seconds late, Neymar’s angled ball just escapes Suárez.
47 mins: All nine of Valencia’s outfield players are within five yards of the 18-yard line. It’s pretty clear what their intentions are for this second half.
The second half is go.
Here we go again – let’s hope the second half can live up to the first. For Valencia, centre back Aymen Abdennour replaces winger Fabián Orellana.
Half time: Barcelona 2-2 Valencia
Well, that wasn’t bad was it? Mangala gave Valencia the lead, Suárez equalised, then won a penalty which saw Mangala sent off. Messi tucked it away, and while the hosts were patting themselves on the back, their own player – the on-loan Munir – raced upfield to level for Valencia. More soon...
GOAL! Barcelona 2-2 Valencia (Munir 46')
Good grief. Barcelona think the job’s done for this half, but Soler carves open their back line, Gaya gets the jump on Rakitic down the left, and his cross is turned in by Munir!
GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Valencia (Messi penalty 45')
Diego Alves is something of a penalty specialist, but Messi outfoxes him, banging his spot kick straight down the middle.
Penalty to Barcelona! And a red card for Mangala!
A more familiar feeling for City fans, as Suárez gets beyond Mangala, who pulls him down as he bursts in on goal. It’s a stonewall pen – Suárez didn’t even bother going to ground – and a straight red for the unfortunate defender, and Messi will take the penalty...
42 mins: Dani Parejo joins Mangala and Pérez in the book for Valencia after a foul on Iniesta.
41 mins: Suárez has been at his slippery best, and is too quick even for his team-mate Rafinha here. The striker wriggles past his marker to the byline and cuts the ball beyond Alves and across goal. Rafinha didn’t bother heading to the far post, so improbable was the angle – but as it turns out, the ball did just roll out of play.
39 mins: ...Neymar and Suárez make a nuisance of themselves in the Valencia wall, but Messi goes over the top, firing his effort a foot over the bar.
38 mins: On the edge of the box, Mangala goes in off-balance against Messi with predictable results. The defender is booked, and Barcelona have a free kick inside the D...
37 mins: The Camp Nou has found its voice, and Barcelona will be grateful to Valencia for downing tools there; it had been an uncomfortable first half up to that point.
GOAL! Barcelona 1-1 Valencia (Suárez 36')
Ah Valencia, it was going so well – but Neymar’s quick throw-in bounces between Garay and Montoya and Suárez races onto it, finishing clinically into the bottom corner!
33 mins: This back three isn’t really working so far – the gaps at the back not worth the extra body upfield. Iniesta tries a high, diagonal ball to Messi with space at a premium, but it goes behind for a goal kick.
32 mins: Neymar works his way through a forest of legs and cuts the ball back to Rafinha, who bustles past Rakitic but sees his shot from 18 yards blocked by Pérez.
31 mins: That’s shaken things up, and Barcelona will now have a job carving open a Valencia defence that can sit back with impunity.
The corner is whipped in towards the near post, where Eliaquim Mangala rises like a salmon over Rakitic and powers a header inside the far post. Valencia lead!
GOAL! Barcelona 0-1 Valencia (Mangala 29')
No matter – from the corner, Valencia lead. Manchester City fans, do not adjust your browser.
27 mins: What a chance for Munir! A clearance upfield from Alves catches the Barça back three square, but Munir never gets it under control, and Ter Stegen does enough to claw it behind!
25 mins: Messi slides a pass beyond Cancelo, into the path of Neymar. The Valencia winger appears to clip Neymar’s heel, and the Brazilian goes down willingly. Referee Hernandez Hernandez points for a goal kick. Valencia players protest, and rather incriminate Cancelo in doing so.
23 mins: Enzo Pérez is booked, and with good cause, for a careless lunge on Neymar. By the way, this is Neymar’s 500th professional football game. He’s 25.
22 mins: The moment I typed that, Montoya gets the jitters under pressure from Suárez. Mangala is on hand to clear the danger.
20 mins: Valencia manager Voro didn’t really want this job, but an upturn in results meant he got it anyway. He’s like a Spanish Gareth Southgate. He has his team set up nicely here, Gaya the latest to stand up to Messi’s trickery in defence.
18 mins: A smart reaction save from Ter Stegen denies Carlos Soler! Valencia keep numbers upfield and after Piqué only half-clears a cross, Soler thumps a half-volley at goal – but the goalkeeper gets down quickly to turn it behind.
17 mins: Valencia break away and Munir looks to Orellana, again in space at the far post. He has time to shoot, but instead tries a long-range cutback towards Munir, which Umtiti intercepts.
15 mins: Messi’s warming up, both feet moving at double speed as he dances around two defenders and into the box – but his curling effort from an angle flies wide.
14 mins: Somehow, it’s still level here, despite Suárez cutting in from the left, leaving Garay in a heap on the turf and rolling the ball to Messi. He’s five yards out, but Orellana is back to flick the ball off the line!
12 mins: Suárez, moving awkwardly after an early knock, finds Iniesta who wins a corner down the left. It’s played short, but Mascherano’s loose pass brings the move to a juddering halt.
10 mins: Munir attempts to make an impact against his parent club with a run beyond Barcelona’s high line, but he’s flagged offside.
8 mins: Suárez collects a long diagonal pass but is prevented from shooting first time by Mangala. He prods the ball back beyond Alves, but it’s turned behind. The corner rebounds to Mascherano, who slices a low shot wide of the far post.
6 mins: Nice interplay from Montoya and Parejo down the right, before the latter lifts a pass to Orellana, waiting at the far post. His header back across goal is cut out by Rakitic, who is a touch fortunate not to handle it at close range.
4 mins: Cancelo, traditionally a right back, is playing in an attacking position tonight – and his pace helps him latch onto a through ball and burst into the area. He has Orellana in acres of space in the middle, but doesn’t spot him and Barcelona clear the danger.
2 mins: Iniesta’s looping pass towards Neymar should be dealt with, but Montoya and Mangala both hesitate, and Suárez is on hand to whip the ball across goal from the left. José Gaya does well to turn the ball behind, and the corner is cleared.
The first half is under way. Barcelona are in their usual red and blue affair; Valencia in white shirts and black shorts.
Valencia won at Camp Nou in the league last season, a 2-1 win teeing up a frantic finish to the title race, which Barcelona ultimately edged ahead of Real Madrid and Atlético. That’s not the only historical omen Voro’s side can look to. Way back in 1998, Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona led Claudio Ranieri’s Valencia 3-0 with 20 minutes to go, Luis Enrique himself opening the scoring. They lost 4-3.
So as expected, Neymar returns to the Barcelona line-up, the full MSN trio present and correct after Arda Turan filled in against Deportivo. It’s the same team that undid PSG, with Luis Enrique returning to an attacking 3-4-3.
For Valencia, Zaza drops to the bench with Munir El-Haddadi, who’s on loan from Barcelona ahead of a permanent move, starting alongside João Cancelo and Fabián Orellana – or if you prefer, part of an OMC strikeforce...
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Piqué, Umtiti, Mascherano; Busquets, Rafinha, Rakitic, Iniesta; Neymar, Suárez, Messi.
Subs: Cillessen, Denis, Alcácer, Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes.
Valencia: Alves; Montoya, Garay, Mangala, Gaya; Pérez, Parejo, Soler; Orellana, Cancelo, Munir.
Subs: Siqueira, Bakkali, Domenech, Medran, Abdennour, Valderrama, Zaza.
Hello. The last time Barcelona hosted a league game at Camp Nou, they ended it top of La Liga – a decent tonic before they headed off to hopefully avoid Champions League humiliation. After the miracle against PSG, came the hangover: a 2-1 defeat at Deportivo that brought Barça back to earth with a bewildering bump.
In the meantime, Real Madrid ground out textbook title-winner wins over Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao, and Barcelona return home five points behind their arch-rivals. A win is a necessity against Valencia, a former title rival reduced to a relegation scrap this season, but also a team with history of causing surprises in Catalonia.
The good news for Luis Enrique, who has hinted at the emotional and physical toll of the historic win over PSG, is that Neymar – chief architect of that incredible night – is fit after missing the trip to Depor. Valencia’s key goal threat is one Simone Zaza, and that’s not as ridiculous as it might sound to West Ham fans; just ask Real Madrid.
Kick off is at 7.45pm GMT, 8.45pm local.