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Messi at the centre but eyes on Mathieu on return to Mestalla

IANS 29 Nov 2014, 16:58:54 PM IST

Madrid: Lionel Messi may be the man making all the headlines at the moment but all eyes at the Mestalla Stadium will probably be on Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu when the Catalans play away to Valencia Sunday night.

Mathieu was one of Barca's summer signings, making the switch from Valencia to the Camp Nou, where he has become a fixture for coach, Luis Enrique, reports Xinhua.

"It will be a nice game for me, however, I will play the game as I always have done. I worked hard at Valencia, but now I will give 100 percent for Barca and if the fans decide to boo me then I will have to accept it," commented Mathieu in sports paper Diario AS.

The past seven days has seen Messi become the highest scorer in the history of the Liga BBVA and also the Champions League, feats he achieved with hat-tricks against Sevilla and APOEL Nicosia.

The Argentine, who Friday brushed off rumours of interest in a move to Chelsea, will lead the attack alongside Luis Suarez, who scored his first goal as a Barca player Tuesday night, and Neymar, who was rested for the trip.

Andres Iniesta should also return for Barca after missing the past three weeks through injury, although he will probably start the game on the subs' bench.

Meanwhile, after Javier Mascherano's excellent performance in midfield during the week, Luis Enrique will have to decide whether the Argentine returns to defence or continues in what is his preferred role.

If Xavi Hernandez returns to the side he will probably drop back into defence alongside Matheiu and another former Valencia star, Jordi Alba, who appears to have recovered his form in the past week.

Valencia have slipped in their last two games, drawing at home to Athletic Club and losing to neighbours, Levante, but with the return of striker Paco Alcazer and a new pitch laid down in Mestalla over the past week, coach Nuno Espiritu Santo will be hoping for a win to lift his side right back into the title race.