Alba leads Barca to the Mestalla

Updated: February 1, 2013

Jordi Alba will be heading back to the
place where his career started when Barcelona faces Valencia at the Mestalla
on Sunday.

The 23-year-old came up through the Valencia youth system before graduating to
the first-team in 2008. But on the back of a stellar season with Los Che last
term and a superb showing with Spain in the European Championships, Alba made
a high-profile switch to Barcelona in the summer.

Alba has helped solidify the left side of Barcelona’s defense, which was a
known weakness for the Catalans following the prolonged absence of Eric
Abidal. The Spanish left-back has brought a great balance since making the
move to Camp Nou, providing steadiness in defense as well as pace and
creativity going forward.

He is sure to garner a great deal of attention when he returns to the Mestalla
for the first time since swapping the white kit of Valencia for the famed
striped shirt of Barcelona.

“I’m very eager to return to Mestalla,” Alba told the club’s official website.
“Valencia gave me the opportunity to play in Primera Division and gave me the
chance to be the player I am today. I’m very grateful and I’m looking forward
to seeing the people and fans.”

Alba will be going up against a side that will not be sitting back despite the
gulf in class separating the two clubs.

Barcelona comes into the weekend enjoying an 11-point lead over second-place
Atletico Madrid. Valencia traditionally finds itself sitting just outside the
title race, but Los Che has fallen 25 points behind the La Liga leaders this

Even with the deficit, Valencia appears to be poised to take a healthy shot at
mighty Barcelona.

“We respect every team, as any one of them can provide danger,” said Valencia
midfielder Sergio Canales. “Of course, Barca and [Real] Madrid are a level
above the rest and we have to be wary, but we are very motivated and are going
to go for the victory.”

Should Barcelona slip up, Atletico Madrid will be hoping to capitalize and
decrease the deficit. Diego Simeone’s men suffered a disappointing loss to
Athletic Bilbao last time out, so they will be looking to make things right
when they host Real Betis at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Real Sociedad welcomes Mallorca to the Anoeta, Rayo Vallecano
heads to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to take on Sevilla, and Malaga
faces Real Zaragoza at La Rosaleda.

Real Madrid is unbeaten in four league matches, looking to win its third
straight La Liga contest. Jose Mourinho’s side, which sits 15 points back of
Barcelona, will keep its run of good form going on Saturday when it faces
Granada at Los Carmenes.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Osasuna welcomes Celta Vigo to El Sadar, Getafe hosts
Deportivo at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, and Levante heads to the Estadi
Cornella-El Prat to take on Espanyol.

And on Friday, Athletic Bilbao overcame a two-goal deficit to earn a point in
a 2-2 draw at Valladolid.