La Liga champions Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways when they face off against Villarreal at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

After two matches without a victory in all competitions, Barcelona will be hoping to bounce back strongly when they welcome Villarreal for a La Liga encounter at Camp Nou this midweek.

Barcelona played out a goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener last week and were then handed a 2-0 defeat by Granada in the league this past Saturday, leaving them eighth in the table. The poor run of results has led to an increased amount of pressure on manager Ernesto Valverde and he will want to get things back on track with a win on Tuesday.

After three games without a victory, Villarreal have returned to winning ways, registering back to back triumphs against Leganes (3-0) and Real Valladolid (2-0). The Yellow Submarine are now a point and a place ahead of Barcelona and will be hoping to widen the gap further with a victory when they visit Camp Nou this week.

The last meeting between Barcelona and Villarreal ended in a pulsating 4-4 draw and ahead of the latest encounter on Tuesday night, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele is back for Barcelona (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Ousmane Dembele is back for Barcelona (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Barcelona have been boosted by the return of French winger Ousmane Dembele, who is back after picking up an injury in the opening game against Athletic Bilbao. Midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been omitted from the 18-man squad named by manager Ernesto Valverde along with Moussa Wague, while Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti are still injured.

After the disappointing defeat to Granada at the weekend, the manager is likely to make some changes to the side starting at right-back, where Sergi Roberto is likely to replace Nelson Semedo. The Portuguese international could be moved to the opposite flank, with Junior Firpo dropping out after his miserable outing this weekend.

With Umtiti still unavailable, Valverde is likely to stick with the centre-back duo of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet, but they will need to up their game after a dodgy start to the new season.

Sergio Busquets should return to the side as the defensive midfielder after being rested for the weekend clash. There is likely to be another change in the middle of the park, with Arthur Melo likely to return to the lineup on Tuesday. Frenkie de Jong should keep his spot in the side to complete the Barcelona midfield.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is in line to make his first start of the season after making a substitute appearance in the last two matches. He should replace Carles Perez on the right wing, while Ansu Fati should feature ahead of the returning Dembele on the opposite flank.

Antoine Griezmann is likely to start as the centre-forward, with Luis Suarez getting benched after another forgetful performance.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Semedo; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Griezmann, Fati

Villarreal

Javier Calleja has no fresh injury concerns heading into Tuesday’s clash. However, Villarreal will still be without the services of captain Bruno Soriano and summer signing Alberto Moreno for their trip to Barcelona. The manager is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that was worked very well for his side in the past couple of matches.

There are likely to be a few changes to the starting XI, although no tweaks are expected at the back after consecutive clean sheets. That would mean Sergio Asenjo continues between the sticks, guarded by a backline comprising of Ruben Pena and Xavi Quintilla as the full-backs with Raul Albiol and Pau Torres as the centre-halves.

On-loan midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa should hold on to his spot in the middle of the park and will be partnered by Vicente Iborra in the double pivot. The duo will be tasked with reducing the influence of Arthur and de Jong in the attacking half of the field.

Santi Cazorla, who scored in the win against Valladolid at the weekend, should continue to occupy the No. 10 role. There will be changes on either side of the veteran though, with Samuel Chukwueze and Karl Toko Ekambi expected to return on the right and left flanks, respectively. Gerard Moreno is likely to move into the centre-forward role, with Carlos Bacca dropping to the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Asenjo; Pena, Albiol, Torres, Quintilla; Zambo Anguissa, Iborra; Chukwueze, Cazorla, Toko Ekambi; Moreno

Key Stats

  • Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 20 La Liga matches against Villarreal (W14 D6). Their last defeat against the Yellow Submarine in the competition came more than a decade ago in March 2008 at Camp Nou (1-2).
  • Villarreal have scored in all of their last 18 La Liga games (35 goals). If they find the back of the net against Barcelona on Tuesday, this would be their best all-time scoring streak in the Spanish top-flight (19).
  • Barcelona have collected only seven points after their five games in La Liga this season – their lowest points tally at this stage of a La Liga season since 1994-95.
  • Villarreal have scored 12 goals in their five La Liga games this term, their highest goals tally at this stage of a season in the competition.
  • Barcelona have won their last nine La Liga home games. The last time the Blaugrana won more consecutive league matches at Camp Nou under the same manager was in 2017 (12 under Luis Enrique).

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Can Messi inspire a turnaround for Barcelona? (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Can Messi inspire a turnaround for Barcelona? (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The Barcelona captain and talisman could be set to make his first La Liga start of the season on Tuesday night. Messi missed the first four league games of the 2019-20 campaign with an injury he picked up in pre-season and made his first appearance at the weekend against Granada, coming on as a substitute at half-time.

While the 32-year-old wasn’t able to inspire his team to a win, the Argentine looked the most dangerous Barcelona player on the night, which isn’t saying much, and had their only shot on target in the game. In what could be a historic night for him as he could become only the second non-Spanish player to start 400 La Liga games, the Argentine will want to lead his side to victory.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-2 Villarreal

Barcelona have just won one of their last four matches in all competitions and failed to score in both their fixtures last week. However, on the last two occasions they have played at Camp Nou, the Blaugrana have recorded 5-2 victories against Real Betis and Valencia.

Villarreal, on the other hand, will be confident coming into the game, after registering consecutive victories against Leganes and Valladolid and keeping clean sheets in both the matches. With the likes of Samuel Chukwueze and Karl Toko Ekambi likely to return to the starting XI, they have plenty of firepower in the attack to hurt the Catalans’ defence that has looked vulnerable.

It promises to be another exciting encounter between Barca and Villarreal and like the last game between the two teams, there will be plenty of goals on offer. Despite their strong record at home, Barcelona, on current form, are there for the taking and we at The Hard Tackle are expecting Villarreal to come away with a point from Camp Nou.

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