14 minutes. 14 minutes was all Neymar needed on Wednesday night to transform himself from a somewhat misfiring marquee signing, to a bona-fide Barcelona superstar. Putting Celtic to the sword with a stunning hat-trick, the Brazilian forward relished his opportunity to start as the focal point of the Barcelona attack, a role he is expected to fill again tonight against Villarreal. Despite their status as a newly-promoted club fresh from a brief spell in the Segunda Division, Villarreal will almost certainly pose a much tougher test that Neil Lennon's outfit; can Neymar continue his dazzling form irrespective of that?
It's a tall order -- in recent memory, Lionel Messi is the only Barcelona player to score hat-tricks in back-to-back games (bonus points to you if you can name the last player, other than Messi, to accomplish that feat for the Blaugrana) but of course we don't have to ask the world of young Neymar. Unless the defense plans to capitulate up against the likes of Giovani dos Santos and Ikechukwu Uche, Neymar won't be required to score three goals -- instead, one goal may suffice, particularly given his penchant for creating chances.
With Alexis Sanchez somewhat struggling for consistency (again), the spotlight is very much on Neymar -- but he will have support in the form of a resurgent Pedro, who has now scored at least goal in four of his last five starts for the club, and Cesc Fabregas, who is tipped to not only return to the starting line-up after serving a one-game suspension in midweek, but return to his favoured role in central midfield, where Whoscored calculate that Cesc has scored five goals and provided a further eight assists in just nine appearances this season.
Certainly, the Blaugrana's attacking prowess is clear for all to see -- and Villarreal will be without their two best players, Cani and Bruno. It's difficult to see past a Barca win, but what will be the final score? Predict the score of tonight's match by commenting with your prediction below. Best of luck!
- La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Villarreal CF: Full Match Coverage
- La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Villarreal CF: Match Preview
- FC Barcelona News: 13 December 2013; 18 Players On List to Face Villarreal, Dani Alves, Adriano Not Included in Squad
- FC Barcelona News: 12 December 2013; Barça Outclass Celtic in Champions League, Draw to Be Held on Monday
- UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 6-1 Celtic FC: Match Review