Pep Guardiola will be hoping that Lionel Messi and the rest of his Barcelona side will be back to their best after a sub-par league performance at the weekend when it hosts Russian club Rubin Kazan in the Champions League.
|Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola is looking for an improved effort [GALLO/GETTY]
Valencia dominated Barcelona for much of a 0-0 draw on Saturday which ended the Spanish leader's winning start to the league, which it leads by one point over Real Madrid.
Barcelona tops Group F with four points, while Rubin is last with one point after holding Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw in its last game. That result has left the Catalans wary of their Russian opponents.
"It's vital to pick up the win. Tomorrow we've got a great opportunity to take a big step since we've traditionally gone out early the year after winning the European Cup,'' Guardiola said on Monday.
"(A win) would give us seven points and put three or four away from the knockout round.''
The Catalans will be without injured striker Thierry Henry, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rested on Saturday after returning from Sweden's World Cup qualifying with a right knee worry.
"He's hurting in a couple of places but he's held it in,'' Guardiola said. "He'll play with pain and we'll see how he tolerates it. When he says enough, enough.''
Guardiola will also be looking to recover Messi's best form after the Argentina winger returned from a frustrating spell of international duty and failed to influence the contest, which marked the 22-year-old's fifth anniversary wearing Barcelona's crimson and blue jersey.
"He carries the weight of being the best player in the world, but it doesn't affect him,'' Guardiola said.
Rubin ended a two-game league losing streak with a 2-1 win over Khimki on Saturday to leave it top of the league and one point ahead of Spartak Moscow.
The bad news was that striker Alexander Bukharov dislocated his arm in the victory and will miss out on Tuesday, along with midfielder Macbeth Sibaya, who is suspended.
However, the Russian leader has clearly been bolstered by its performance against the Serie A champion.
"We showed against Inter Milan that we're in a position to play at a high level and to play whatever rival,'' Cesar Navas, a former player in the Spanish league, told Sport newspaper upon arrival in Barcelona.
"We could have won that game, but it wasn't to be. We showed everyone that Rubin can do damage to any team.''
Barcelona has won all but one of its four home encounters against Russian opponents with Guardiola on the losing end against CSKA Moscow during the 1992-93 season, a defeat that ended the three-time European champion's then reign.