Monday 28th April; 9.00 PM CET
Fighting only for the La Liga this season, Barcelona visit 7th placed Villarreal on Sunday in what could be an extremely important match for Tata Martino’s campaign this season. Out of the Champions League and having lost the Copa del Rey finals to arch-rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona are currently 4 points behind Atletico Madrid in what is turning out to be a climactic finale to the Spanish La Liga.
With just 4 games remaining in the La Liga, Villarreal will be looking to finish on a high as they face an uninspired Barcelona on Sunday at the El Madrigal. Villarreal stand on the brink of qualifying for Europa League next season and will be looking to keep the likes of Lionel Messi at bay to earn three crucial points. Having staged a dramatic come-back in the past few seasons, Villarreal will be looking to exploit Barcelona who are currently standing on very weak legs at the back. However they have not been in a great run, having lost 2 of their last 3 games. Another defeat at the hands of Barcelona will seriously jeopardize their chances of playing in Europe.
Jeremy Perbet and Giovani along with Uche have been leading the team at the front and have scored an impressive 32 goals between them. If Villarreal are to salvage any points from this encounter then they will be depending on their strikers and wingers to exploit Barcelona’s weak defence. They will be looking to penetrate with speed and precision and are expected to focus on trying to contain the Catalans. But Barcelona have shown themselves to be weak in the counter-attacks and Villarreal’s best chances are sure to come from a pacy outlet.
Expected Line-Up: Asenjo; Musacchio, Pantic, Gaspar, Costa; Pina, Soriano; Aquinho, Cani, Dos Santos, Perbet
Sitting on the second spot in the La Liga, Barcelona are well aware that the only way they can win any trophy this year is if Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid don’t slip in the final dash for the finishing line. Having suffered miserably this season, in terms of injuries and mere absence of big names, Barcelona will be looking to salvage some pride as they remain in the danger of finishing third in Spain this year.
Out of Champions League and Copa Del Rey, Barcelona have often struggled away from home this year and the fixture against Villarreal could come back to haunt the Catalans. With half their defence sidelined due to injuries, it remains to be seen how Tata Martino arranges his back-four with the hope of establishing a string defensive line. But perhaps his biggest concern will be Messi’s lack of form in recent games. Often stranded alone, an uninspired Messi has been the bane for Barcelona this season as they have come to rely heavily on their Argentine maestro. Neymar too has not made the impact many would have hoped for and he is most likely to miss the game due to the injury he suffered against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey finals. Busquests too is expected to sit out which means that Alex Song will replace him in the starting eleven. Tata Martino will be expected to field a strong team on Sunday and one can expect the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi on the pitch. As far as tactics go, Barcelona have been quite unpredictable this season and will be looking to dominate possession and try and find that crucial goal.
Expected Line Up: Pinto, Mascherano, Bartra, Alves, Adriano, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Sanchez, Messi.
Players To Watch Out For:
Lionel Messi is the player to watch out for on Sunday. Having suffered greatly with his form this season, Messi could return to this game in full form as he has a point or two to prove to his critics. Dos Santos on the other hand has been Villareal’s key man this season and he is expected to put up a good performance against the Catalans. Playing just behind the striker, he will be a genuine threat for Pinto in this fixture.
Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona