11th February, 19:00 GMT
Having comfortably won against Atletico Madrid in the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey, Barcelona now face Villarreal for a place in the finals as the two come head to head in the first leg of the tie at Camp Nou. With Real Madrid and Atletico both out of the competition, Barcelona have a genuine shot at the title but Villarreal will be looking to make things difficult for the Catalans over the span of 180 minutes.
Amidst talks of a crisis and a player-manager fall-out, manager Luis Enrique worked hard with his team and the results are for everybody to see. The Catalan juggernaut has convincingly overcome all opposition put forward by the likes of Atletico Madrid and Athletic, including a 6-0 victory over Elche last month. At the heart of the resurgence lies the trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez who have effortlessly combined together to lead Barcelona in recent months.
Though Barcelona are the favourites to win the tie against Villarreal and are indeed the favourites to win Copa del Rey this season, Villarreal will prove to be a tough opposition. Barcelona recently faced the club last week in the La Liga and come out as the winners after the game finished 3-2 in their favour.
If Barcelona are to shine at the Camp Nou, they will be heavily reliant on Lionel Messi to provide the artillery. The Argentine maestro sseems to have found his lost touch and is back to his devastating best football. His partnership with Neymar and Luis Suarez will once again be the focal point of Barcelonaa s attack. Busquets and Rakitic are expected to start in the midfield alongside Iniesta.
Expected Starting Line-Up: Marc-Andr ter Stegen (GK); Mascherano, Pique, Jordi Alba, Alves; Rakitic, Iniesta, Busquets; Messi, Neymar, Iniesta
Villarreal are playing in the Copa del Rey semi-finals for the first time in their history and will be desperate to not let the opportunity slip. They lost 3-2 to Barcelona earlier this month and will be looking for the crucial away goal as they visit the Camp Nou. Marcelino will be aware that Barcelona have the firepower to finish the tie effectively after the first leg and hence it will be extremely important for Villarreal to be play with an organised defence. Barcelonaa s swift and decisive counter-attack has been their strength lately and Villarreal cannot afford to have their defenders out of position with the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez lurking to score goals.
Sergio Asenjo is expected to start the game between the posts and the keeper is likely to be kept busy over the two legs of the Copa del Rey tie. Luciano Vietto is Villarreala s main attacking threat and the 21 year old striker will look to exploit Barcelonaa s loopholes in the defence. Denis Cheryshev is also having a good season and contributed significantly in Villarreala s rise this season.
Expected Starting Line-Up: Sergio Asenjo (GK); Paulista, Victor Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Mario Gaspar; Bruno Soriano, Trigueros, Giovani, Denis Cheryshev; Uche, Luciano Vietto
Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal
Player To Watch Out For
With Lionel Messi on the pitch, there is no other player the spectator would rather watch on the field. The Argentine has been sensational lately and seems to be back to his old self. Hsi partnership with Neymar and Suarez is reaping rich dividends for Barcelona and expect fireworks as the trio take on Villarreal in the first leg of the Copa del Rey tie.
Blast From The Past