Barcelona face Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Sunday. Villarreal are showing some signs of improvement, as they beat Real Betis last time around. Barcelona had a good game against Dutch giants PSV, grabbing a crucial win and confirming top spot in Champions League Group B. With just three points separating first and fourth in La Liga, a win for the defending champions might be enough to return to the summit. Here are three things Barcelona should do to win against Villarreal and hopefully return to pole position in the league.
Suppress long-shot opportunities
Villarreal are known for creating long-shot opportunities and with a talented midfield spearheaded by the rejuvenated Santi Cazorla, coupled with Barca’s recent defensive vulnerabilities, the Yellow Submarine will be a tough opponent to stop. With Javier Calleja deploying either a 4-4-2 or the interesting 4-3-1-2 setup, their formation can be unpredictable at times, although but Villarreal do have a consistent eleven. Their passing accuracy isn’t comparable to the Blaugranes and they don’t enjoy a fair share of average possession as well (50% overall). So if Barcelona can stop the visitors shooting from range, Villarreal will struggle to create chances.
Avoiding overloading the midfield
With Ernesto Valverde set to manage his 400th Liga game this weekend, he is under some pressure due to the team’s recent performances not matching Barcelona’s usual standards. The match against Villarreal will be a game of tactics as the Yellow Submarine are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league. Calleja has deployed midfield overloading but with star midfielder Rodri switching alliances with Atletico, it hasn’t been exactly successful this time around: they sit 17th in the league, with just three points separating them from the relegation spot. But once they create overloads, things definitely take a turn. With the likes of Gerard Moreno, Pablo Fornals and Sam Chukwueze benefiting from this style of play, Barcelona must look to snatch the ball in the midfield itself. A high pressing game can suffocate the Villarreal midfield and mean their strikers are isolated. So, Valverde should employ a mix of tactics involving pressing and the usual possession play.
Watch our for rising star Samuel Chukwueze
The Super Eagles’ attacker has had a fine start to his Liga career. He has quickly risen from the B team to the senior squad and is one of the shining lights in the Villarreal roster. Moreover, he has already made his debut for Nigeria and hopes to feature in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations . His important goals against Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis, and a man of the match performance against the former, has earned him the gaffer’s trust as he hopes to start alongside Gerard Moreno up front. The prolific and pacy starlet has been described by former Nigerian footballer Mutiu Adepoju as a player who has “everything to succeed.” He can be an unlikely danger man as he is the one who likes to take daunting runs and cut inside.