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Valencia to host Barcelona in La Liga’s biggest game

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Madrid, Nov 25: Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia says he wants to take the "thorn from his side" when the team hosts FC Barcelona in the Mestalla Stadium on Sunday.

The Valencia boss has never beaten Barcelona during all of his years as coach in the Primera Liga and Sunday would be a good time to start in what is arguably the biggest game of the Spanish season to date, reports Xinhua news agency. 

Barcelona travel to Valencia as league leaders with 34 points from a possible 36, while Valencia are second just four points behind after winning their last eight games and have a 6-point cushion over Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

A win for Marcelino's side would take them to within just one point of the top of the table and establish them as genuine title contenders, while at the same time giving Real and Atletico the chance to close the gap on Barca if they can win their respective matches.

Marcelino will have to watch the game from the stands after being sent off for protesting during Valencia's 2-0 win away to Espanyol last weekend, but the advantage of having had all week to prepare for the game, whereas Barca played away to Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde took the brave step of resting Leo Messi and Jordi Alba for that match, but he will have to replace the suspended Gerard Pique and the injured Javier Mascherano for Sunday night, with Thomas Vermaelen likely to make his first league appearance of the campaign in central defense.

Valencia meanwhile have to decide whether to risk top-scorer Simone Zaza's knee after revelations he has damaged his meniscus ligament, or to continue with Santi Mina in attack, while Jason Murillo is likely to miss out through injury.

The game was given even more significance on Friday with the death of former Valencia President Jaime Orti, the man who was in charge when Rafael Benitez led the club to two league titles in 2002 and 2004 and he can expect a pre-game homage before the kick off, which if anything will even more emotion to the match in packed Mestalla. 

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