Barcelona battle fatigue, Valencia in Copa del Ray semis

Madrid, Feb 2 (IANS) European champions FC Barcelona entertain Valencia in the first leg of their Spanish Cup football semi-final on Wednesday with a question mark hanging over the form of both sides.

Although Barcelona lead the La Liga standings, a busy fixture calendar has taken its toll on Luis Enrique’s men, something which appeared obvious as they struggled to kill off nine-man Atletico Madrid in a 2-1 win on Saturday, reports Xinhua.

The Barcelona coach will no doubt look to rotate some players against Valencia with Alex Vidal, Sergi Roberto and perhaps Munir all getting a start and there is a chance that star striker Lionel Messi may be rested after he received a nasty blow on his knee from a foul against Atletico.

Brazilian forward Neymar will also be under the spotlight following his court appearance over irregularities involving his transfer to the club. He recently admitted that the pressure of the ongoing case has affected him.

However, Valencia have many more troubles. The side coached by Gary Neville has slipped worryingly close to the relegation zone as they are yet to win any of the eight La Liga games they have played since Neville’s appointment earlier in the season.

They surrendered their unbeaten La Liga home record to Sporting Gijon in a 0-1 defeat on Sunday and a heavy defeat at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona would only serve to heighten the pressure on the coach.

Valencia were strengthened on Monday by the loan signing of Denis Cheryshev from Real Madrid.

The second semi-final will be played on Thursday with Sevilla hosting Celta Vigo at home.

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