Camp El Madrigal — Villarreal
April 3rd, 2011,
01:30 AM IST (2100 hours BST)
Its official now. The strike has been called off and everything in Spain is back as scheduled. FC Barcelona will go head-to-head against the Yellow Submarine at the El Madrigal. An intriguing contest on the cards with Villarreal more than capable of taking all three points from this game. Considered one of the toughest away games in the league calendar, a result in favour of Villarreal would turn the title race into a nerve-wrecking one as we approach the business end of the season.
The little dynamite
The La Liga resumes after an international break, which saw the whole of Barca’s starting eleven taking part. The Barca contingent did have a good outing during the break with all the players doing well for their respective national teams. While David Villa became Spain’s all-time highest goal scorer, Xavi completed his 100th game. Afelley had a good run for the Dutch and Messi weaved his magic against USA. However, the FIFA virus made its usual appearance and gave a scare for Messi. His participation is still a doubt for the Villarreal contest.
All these factors give an unclear picture ahead of the match. Villarreal have started to regain their slick passing flow after a brief period of dip in form. Meanwhile Barca is beginning to feel the thinness of their squad strength. They are fast running out of defenders at the back.
Team News and Tactical Brief
When it comes to playing like Barca, few other teams comes closers than Villarreal. They use the same one touch free flowing football with emphasis on high technical play. They have also got the personal to do it and can actually come close in beating Barca at their own game. Though the 3-1 lose they suffered at the Camp Nou may say otherwise, they did give them a run for their money. Juan Carlos Garrido believes he can get them this time.
The major problem for Villarreal would be the availability of the ball. It is true that even with very less possession, one can beat Barca, but it is difficult. On the other hand, Villarreal needs the ball to play through their way to goal. The last time Barça was below 50% of ball possession was back 16th of March 2008 with 49.5% against Valencia FC. If Villarreal can manage a decent amount of possession against Barca, they can definitely cause their fragile defense a very uneasy 90 minutes.
Messi and Ronaldo may be leading the goal scoring charts, but there is a small man named Rossi who is in third. Rossi has been the main man for Villarreal and his partnership with Nilmar a handful for any defense. With Valero and Cazorla capable of opening up any defense with their creativity, goals won’t be a problem. Villarreal had a recent dip in their form losing and drawing too many matches which they could have won. Villarreal will look to beat Barca at their own game with movement and passing.
Their European journey is going fine and they are one of the favorites in the Europa league. They would want to make sure they seal the European places and a three points against Barca won’t hurt their chances.
Probable Starting Eleven: Diego Lopez; Ciciniho, Gonzalo, Marchena, Capdevilla; Mario, Bruno; Borja, Cazorla; Rossi, Nilmar
“Now is not the time to discuss the crisis. However, time to show our struggle for the champion. Without Xavi clearly not profitable. However, we still have a thriving Thiago Alcantara,” said Guardiola. Everything may look beautiful from outside, but Barca looks to have a serious problem. Their think squad is being stretched to its limits. Abidal’s condition couldn’t come at any time worst. Most of his players are coming from International games and he has major injury problems to think about. Abidal, Puyol, Pedro and Maxwell are definitely out for this game with injuries. Xavi is suspended and Messi is still not 100% certain. This is almost half of their squad and will be a tough test for the bench strength.
There is no one who can fill Xavi’s shoes and no one can control the pace of the game like he can. Pep has turned to Keita to fill in whenever Xavi was not there and he has not let down. With Xavi out, Iniesta will be expected to shoulder more responsibility on the ball. Milito has not had a great season and he is error prone. Pep could go with Busquets at the back partnering Pique as he did against Arsenal. Bojan came from U21 with a knock but since then has recovered. Pep does have options on the bench though with Afelley and Thiago waiting for their chances.
Messi has been cleared of any muscle injury, but his participation has not been confirmed yet. His absence will be a massive boast for Villarreal. Barca will be praying for Messi to start as missing both Messi and Xavi will cut down major attacking strengths of Barca.
Probable Starting Eleven: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Milito, Adriano; Busquets, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Bojan, Villa
- Barça have not lost in five games against Villarreal.
- Bojan Krkic became the youngest ever Barcelona player to score a league goal when he scored against Villarreal on October 20, 2007.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Playing next to Xavi is what makes him so dangerous. With Xavi holding his position, Iniesta always has the insurance to attempt the daring dribbles and moves that almost always carve out a goal scoring chance. But he has to do it all alone in this match and would be forced to restrict himself from some of his moves. He is capable of that and has done to great effect in games where Xavi was missed. Barca’s hopes of winning the match rest on the performance of Iniesta.
Villarreal 1-2 FC Barcelona
Attack is the main weapon for both these teams and there will be goals in it. Expecting an intense game with high pressure and lots of good movement and passing patterns. This will one of the toughest games left for Barca on their road for the title. Pep knows he cannot slip up here. Beating Villarreal would mean a massive step towards retaining the title and a slip up will put Madrid’s hopes on high.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST