Alba leads Barca to the Mestalla

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 term.

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.