FC Barcelona (2nd, 22pts) vs Villarreal CF (7th, 15pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Wednesday
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 10
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen, Memphis Depay (out)
Villarreal Outs & Doubts: Gerard Moreno, Juan Foyth, Francis Coquelin (out)
Date/Time: Thursday, October 20, 2022, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Friday)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
VAR: Santiago Jaime Latre
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), TSN 5 (Canada), Premier Sports 2 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
Following a depressing performance and loss to Real Madrid in El Clásico at the weekend, Barcelona return to La Liga action as they welcome Villarreal to the Greatest Stadium on Earth for some Thursday Night Fútbol fun.
Barça’s week of hell took another bad turn as the Inter Milan disaster was followed by a mostly apathetic showing in the biggest game of them all, a real disappointment in many levels from tactics to attitude and a general lack of ideas that has this team completely lost during the most important month of the season.
Xavi Hernández is deservedly under pressure and scrutiny from the outside, but president Joan Laporta showed his support both publicly and internally and there is zero reason to believe the manager’s job is under any type of threat right now. It’s Xavi’s job to fix the mess than he in many ways has created with his stubbornness and unwillingness to change, and he’s told the media he’s ready to look for some different answers to turn things around in this ugly stretch.
Personnel changes are expected simply because some rotation is necessary with the busy calendar until the World Cup, but there could be a couple of tactical tweaks that see the team play essentially in a 4-2-3-1 formation to make the side more stable without the ball, have a double pivot to combat the opponent’s press during the buildup phase and push both full-backs forward while playing with inverted wingers.
We’ll see exactly what the design is once the game begins, but the 3-5-2 in possession that’s become very predictable could become a thing of the past if the new approach is indeed implemented against Villarreal. Unai Emery will no doubt have a gameplan of his own and will try to frustrate Barça in possession as much as possible and have plenty of pace to hurt the Catalans on the counter.
The tactical chess match will be interesting, and Barça must show signs of improvement to try and keep pace with Madrid in the title race. Villarreal is a brutal test, but passing it will give the team a lot of confidence.
Barcelona (4-2-3-1): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Eric, Alba; Gavi, De Jong; Ferran, Pedri, Fati; Lewandowski
Villarreal (4-4-2): Rulli; Mandi, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Yeremi, Parejo, Capoue, Baena; Jackson, Danjuma
Villarreal is pretty much the worst team to face right now. Unai Emery knows how to annoy Barça into near submission, and it’ll take a massive fighting spirit to win this one. And against all evidence I’ll choose to trust the team to show that spirit: 2-1 to the good guys.