European Football Preview: Will there be a Barca masterclass at Mestalla?

Lionel Messi at his best
The Messi-ah
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After putting on a show at Wembley on Saturday, Barcelona need Messi to kickstart their campaign in La Liga, says our European football columnist James Horncastle...

"Gerard Pique's form is a concern and there have been reports in the Catalan press of a conflict with Messi."

Another Barca masterclass?

Valencia v Barcelona
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Betfair Video and Eleven Sports

Leaving Lionel Messi's performance to one side, one of the most striking things about Barcelona's 4-2 win at Spurs on Wednesday was the stark contrast it made with recent results in La Liga.

The Spanish champions looked out of sorts in September, drawing their last two games at the Camp Nou and losing to Leganes in between. Gerard Pique's form is a concern and there have been reports in the Catalan press of a conflict with Messi. The defence remains unconvincing, let down by a mix of poor decision-making and ill-discipline.

It's one clean sheet in seven for Ernesto Valverde's side which ordinarily might lead you to the Both Teams to Score market. But goals are proving hard to come by for Sunday's opponent's Valencia. Only two sides have scored fewer in Spain's top flight. They failed to score at Old Trafford in midweek and couldn't lay a glove on Juventus despite playing 11 v 10 for an hour at Mestalla.

There is no doubting Valencia have talent up front. Rodrigo looks like becoming a big part of Luis Enrique's Spain team. Michy Batshuayi can be prolific and Kevin Gameiro has been around the block in La Liga. But for now Valencia are struggling to create anything clear-cut. Which is why it might be worth backing 'No' at [2.28] in the Both Teams to Score market on the exchange.

Purple patch

Lazio v Fiorentina
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Betfair Video

For the first time since November 2005 Serie A had a full house in the Champions League. All four teams won and in doing so overtook the Premier League in the UEFA co-efficient.

On Thursday in the Europa League, Milan upheld their side of the bargain by coming back from behind to beat Olympiakos at San Siro. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect week on the continent was Lazio's 4-1 defeat in Frankfurt.

Red cards at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second compromised everything for the Biancocelesti who weren't pleased with the standard of refereeing. Nevertheless Simone Inzaghi acknowledged Dusan Bastan and Joaquin Correa should have been more careful in going about their business.

It capped a miserable few days for Lazio who were still smarting from losing the derby at the weekend. Sunday's game against Fiorentina does not come at a good time and quite literally so. Last year Lazio tended to play on a Monday after their Europa League commitments and are not best pleased with the scheduling of what promises to be a cracking game.

Fiorentina are a point above Lazio in the table and look good to challenge for Europe. The Viola are the youngest team in the top five leagues, and former Lazio boss Stefano Pioli has making treasure out of the potential at his disposal.

Some might say Fiorentina's away form has to improve if they are to sustain a push for Europe but so far the fixture list has dealt them few favours. And besides the Viola competed well at the San Paolo, losing late to Napoli, and were unlucky a bad penalty decision went against them at San Siro against Inter.

One suspects Pioli will fancy his chances on Sunday. Fiorentina are fresher, have more enthusiasm and can beat you in a number of different ways. Take them at [2.02] on Double Chance to return to Florence with a positive result.

Lethal Piatek

Genoa v Parma
Sunday, 11:30
Live on Betfair Video and Eleven Sports

It's an unoriginal bet. But at the moment it's hard to find a reason not to sty on the Krzysztof Piatek train. Genoa's Polish striker has scored in every game this season and came good for us last weekend with a brace in Frosinone.

The €4m signing from KS Cracovia is the first foreign import to score eight goals in his first six games in Serie A since Karl Aage Hansen in 1949 and has Genoa competing for a place in Europe.

Sunday's game against Parma at Marassi promises to be an exciting encounter, not least because Piatek isn't the only in-form striker on show. Gervinho has been lighting up Serie A since returning from China in the summer. The Ivorian has looked dangerous in every single game, and entered his contender for goal of the season with an 89-yard run and finish against Cagliari.

Piatek is 16/5 as the First Goalscorer and 11/10 in the Anytime Goalscorer market to continue his hot streak while Gervinho is a little longer at 3/1.

If you want more value, I suggest looking at the the Pole's partner's in the Genoa forward line. The Rossoblu's goals have come exclusively from strikers this season with veteran treble winner Goran Pandev finding the net twice and youngster Christian Kouame impressing by opening his account on his debut in Serie A. One is 5/2 the other is 13/5 in the Anytime Scorer market.

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