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Villarreal vs Barcelona, 2016 La Liga: Team News, Match Preview

A preview of Barcelona's huge La Liga clash with fourth-place Villarreal CF at El Madrigal

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La Masia seems to be the gift that just keeps on giving; FC Barcelona entered Jornada 30 knowing that it would be crucial in the La Liga title race, but never in their wildest dreams would they have imagined the scenario that unfolded on Saturday afternoon. With a tough trip to El Madrigal on the schedule for Sunday afternoon, the Barcelona squad will have watched Atletico Madrid today expecting Diego Simeone’s side to apply the pressure with a victory over Sporting Gijon.

However, the trip to El Molinon proved too much for Atleti to handle and while they surged out to a first-half lead courtesy of Antoine Griezmann, a late comeback scuppered their chances of securing the three points. Former Barcelona B starlet and highly-rated forward Antonio Sanabria grabbed an equaliser and Chory Castro bagged an unlikely winner with less than a minute left in regulation play.

Having substituted both Griezmann and Luciano Vietto, Atleti lacked the firepower to respond in kind and as such they remain eight points adrift of the table-topping Blaugrana, who can now move a staggering eleven points clear at the top with a win over high-flying Villarreal CF.

The Yellow Submarine currently sit in fourth place in the standings, and moved into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League in midweek by dispatching a side that Barcelona met earlier in the season, Bayer Leverkusen. While they have faltered in domestic competition in recent weeks with a slip up on the road at Sevilla and a shock defeat at home to Las Palmas, Villarreal boast an impressive record and represent one of toughest tests of the season so far.

The return fixture at the Camp Nou was a tough one, something that the eventually comfortable scoreline does not reflect. Sure, we won handsomely in the end – but it took an hour before we broke the deadlock, and even then, both sides had created good chances. It took a superlative performance from Neymar to wear down their resilient defense, not to mention a little magic from Andrés Iniesta.

Chances are, we will need a little bit more magic from our stars tomorrow if we want to secure victory and capitalise on Atletico’s unexpected slip-up.



The best news of the week probably wasn’t that we qualified at Arsenal’s expense for the next round of the UEFA Champions League, nor was it that Atletico lost this afternoon – rather the best news of the week was that Rafinha Alcântara received the medical green light to return to action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines recovering and rehabilitating from a nasty knee injury suffered against AS Roma.

The Brazilian midfielder was tipped to continue his rise to prominence within the squad after a string of strong performances at the start of the season, only for that crude challenge from Radja Nainggolan to curtail those hopes. In his absence, we have seen Sergi Roberto have a breakout season, while Arda Turan has began to find his feet after a slow start to his Barcelona career, but it’ll be good to have Rafinha back nonetheless.

Of course, he isn’t part of the squad that will travel to El Madrigal tomorrow, but I wanted to mention him anyway. The other major injury news concerns Andrés Iniesta, who has also been left out of the squad as he struggles with a minor knock. It’s far from ideal, but if it also means that he rests in Barcelona over the international break, I’m all for it.

The squad, as per usual, was announced was Luis Enrique today and based on his selection, not to mention the magnitude of the game, one would anticipate Barça starting with arguably their strongest line-up. That would mean Claudio Bravo in goal, as the Chilean looks to record his third successive La Liga clean sheet, and he will aim to do so with help from his backline, which should feature the returning Gerard Piqué.

The Catalan centre-half was suspended for our midweek win over Arsenal, and while we didn’t miss him all too much thanks to a strong performance from Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu, it’s always good to welcome back a player of Piqué’s calibre. Certainly his composure, reading of the game and aerial presence will all play their part in tomorrow’s match, as Barça face one of La Liga’s in-form strikers in Cedric Bakambu.

Alongside Gerard Piqué, one would expect that Javier Mascherano will retain his place in the backline with Jordi Alba also likely to feature at left-back. As always, there’s a question mark surrounding the final defensive berth: will Luis Enrique opt for Dani Alves or Aleix Vidal? I think given Villarreal’s status, Lucho will opt for his big-game defense, granting that start to Alves.

Sergio Busquets will anchor the midfield with Ivan Rakitić likely to accompany him after he missed the first clash between these two sides through injury. Last time round, Sergi Roberto was his replacement and with Iniesta set to miss out, I anticipate that Sergi will get the nod again tomorrow. It’s not that he’s a better player than Arda Turan per se, but he is a better fit for the system, and a better fit for this match. That being said, Arda’s creativity and unique, steely attitude could appeal to Enrique in what might be a hostile atmosphere at El Madrigal.

Then we get to the attack, all of whom scored on Wednesday evening, and all of whom are capable of deciding this match on their own. Neymar scored twice the last time these two sides met, the second of which would probably be a contender for goal of the season if Barça didn’t score so many damn beautiful goals. Suarez also grabbed a goal – a converted penalty if you can believe it – and he too scored a beauty in midweek against Arsenal. And we have Lionel Messi, who doesn’t need much of an introduction – but of course will be our most likely chance at breaking down one of the league’s very best defensive units.


At this stage we would usually break down the opposition to some level of detail, but in this instance I’m going to direct you to our sister site, Villarreal USA. The guys over there do an excellent job of covering The Yellow Submarine, and I thoroughly recommend you head over to check out what they have to say about this game.

Despite a setback last weekend at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan, Villarreal remain in control of fourth place, and with Sevilla set to take on Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend, they could maintain their cushion over their nearest rivals irrespective of the result of tomorrow’s match. Not that they have any intention of losing; Villarreal have conceded just eight goals at El Madrigal this season and they’ve only lost twice at home.

I mentioned him earlier, but Barça will have to be weary of the threat posed by Cedric Bakambu; the Congolese forward has scored four in his last three appearances and possesses all the attributes required to terrorise the Blaugrana backline.


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Barcelona: WWWWWW

Villarreal: WDLWLD


FC Barcelona 3-0 Villarral CF – 8th November 2015 – La Liga

It took Barça over an hour to break the deadlock, but a quickfire brace from Neymar either side of a rare converted penalty from Luis Suarez secured an emphatic win for the hosts.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitić, Roberto; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Villarreal (4-4-2): Areola; Mario, Ruiz, Bonera, Bailly; Rukavina, Bruno, Pina, Denis; Cedric, Soldado


My head says a 1-1 draw, but my heart is gambling on a 2-1 win.

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