In what was Quique Setien's first defeat as Barcelona boss, coming just three games in, the Blaugrana were poor in the first half and, despite an initial bounce to begin the second period, they soon faltered as a Maxi Gomez shot went in off Jordi Alba in the 48th minute before the Uruguayan got his name on the scoresheet himself just under half an hour later.
Although the Catalans had registered an impressive 5-2 victory in the reverse fixture earlier this season, the Mestalla had proven to be a tricky place to visit in recent times. Barcelona have had a shaky away record all of this season. It's clear that Setien has his work cut out for him if he is to lead the defending champions to yet another La Liga crown.
Here are the three things we learned as Valencia beat Barcelona at the Mestalla on Saturday.
3. Barca clearly lacked conviction
Setien’s side owned the ball for the majority of this game and merely gave it to Valencia, but they just didn’t create enough clear-cut openings to win the game. If it wasn’t for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barca could have been 3-0 down. The hosts should have been out of sight.
Ter Stegen made at least 4 crucial saves before the break to keep his side in the game, however, he was undone by Gomez’s strike early in the second half, which deflected off Alba. He was also powerless to stop the Uruguayan from scoring Valencia’s second of the night.
Lionel Messi huffed and puffed, and came close a number of times but this was one of those rare days where even his finishing appeared to be off.
2. Valencia were the better team
Valencia were an orderly, concentrated, supportive and dangerous team, who were missing their best midfielder, Dani Parejo, and their best forward, Rodrigo Moreno. However, players like Jose Gaya, Maxi Gomez, Ferran Torres, and Gabriel Paulista stood up to the challenge, and made their fans forget about the absence of their suspended captain.
It was Gomez's shot that deflected off Alba and he scored Lo Che's second goal, too. Valencia haven’t lost at home in the league since April and never looked like losing once they took the lead.
The hosts broke away early, earned a penalty and found out that they could counter-attack whenever they wanted, with a sheepish defence standing in their way. The subsequent penalty may have been missed but Barca’s shape fell apart every time they lost the ball.
1. Suarez was definitely missed
Luis Suarez's injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Barcelona. The Uruguayan has been an important figure for Barcelona this season and had already scored 14 times from 23 games before injuring himself. Against Valencia, Setien opted for a front three of Fati, Griezmann, and Messi on the day, however, the team missed the movement and positioning of Suarez in the final third.
Messi did lead a late assault on the home defence, but the Argentinean failed to inspire his team on the night. Messi had 11 shost, 4 of which were on target. With this defeat, Barcelona remain on 43 points after 21 games, still top of the table, albeit temporarily.
Their reign at the top, though, could end by the time the weekend is over. Real Madrid play Real Valladolid on Sunday and even a draw would see them leapfrog Barcelona in the La Liga standings.