- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - With strikers Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in spectacular form, Barcelona visits Valencia on Saturday aiming to keep a winning streak going and extend its lead of the Spanish league.

Neymar leads La Liga with 14 goals through 13 rounds, while Suarez is second with 12 goals after scoring in his last six league matches.

Messi, meanwhile, seems to be back up to full speed after a two-month layoff with three goals in three appearances.

All that adds up to a stiff challenge for a Valencia side under interim manager Salvador Gonzalez, as it awaits the arrival of former Manchester United player Gary Neville to take over. Neville was to be presented late Thursday, and Valencia says he will officially start his tenure on Sunday.

Barcelona has won six straight league games by the combined score of 21-3, including a 4-0 win at Real Madrid, and hasn’t conceded a goal in the last four rounds.

“We are happy with the numbers, but there are always things we can improve,” Suarez said. “We are realists, and we know that in football you never know what can happen.”

The strong run by Luis Enrique’s side has given the defending champions a four-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid, with Madrid another two points behind in third.

Here are some more things to know about the 14th round of the Spanish league:


MEAN MESTALLA: Despite not beating Barcelona at home since the 2007-08 season, Valencia has proven to be a troublesome stop for the Catalan club.

Valencia has earned draws against Barcelona in five of their last eight meetings at Mestalla Stadium, while Barcelona’s three wins have all been by one goal.

Valencia is in ninth place after the exit of former coach Nuno Espirito Santo. It faces a critical match against Lyon in the Champions League on Wednesday to keep alive its chances of advancing to the knockout rounds.

“We know the difficulty of playing Barcelona,” Valencia defender Jose Gaya said. “In Mestalla we can compete, and we have to play our kind of match while knowing that Barcelona is a great team.”

MADRID MUCK UP: If Madrid’s Rafa Benitez didn’t have enough to worry about following his team’s humiliating home loss to Barcelona two weeks ago, the coach returns for his first game back at the Santiago Bernabeu after a major bureaucratic bungle.

Madrid faces disqualification from the Copa del Rey after fielding Denis Cheryshev, who was ineligible due to a suspension carried over from last season, in Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Cadiz.

The Spanish federation is expected to rule on Cadiz’s objection on Friday, and the penalty established by the competition’s by-laws is disqualification.

That means Benitez and club president Florentino Perez could face a new wave of criticism from disgruntled supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday when Madrid hosts crosstown rival Getafe.

Madrid has won its last three games, all away from home, since losing to Barcelona.

STAYING FOCUSED: Atletico visits Granada also on Saturday looking to keep in touch with Barcelona and not get caught looking ahead to their trip to Portugal.

Atletico travels to Benfica on Tuesday to dispute first place in their Champions League group.

Diego Simeone’s team is unbeaten in its last 10 matches across all competitions, and boasts the best defense in the league with a tournament-low six goals conceded.

Simeone will be searching for a replacement for midfielder Tiago Mendes, after he broke his leg in the last round. Saul Niguez will likely get the nod.



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