Villarreal vs Barcelona: Preview and Projected Lineups

Jul 21, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FC Barcelona forward Luis Suarez (9) during the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl. FC Barcelona won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FC Barcelona forward Luis Suarez (9) during the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl. FC Barcelona won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Struggling Barcelona travel to El Madrigal to take on high-flying Villarreal

Barcelona will play another away match in just four days as Luis Enrique’s men travel to the southeastern Spain to take on in form Villarreal.

The Catalans just played out a draining 90 minutes in San Mames this Thursday, where they lost to Athletic Bilbao in a Copa del Rey fixture despite having two men advantage. This led to the world media concluding that Barcelona are no longer the best in Spain, and with Real Madrid six points ahead in the league table, the pressure has piled on Enrique and his men to bounce back.

Meanwhile Villarreal did not exactly have the best week either. Much like Barcelona, the Yellow Submarine disappointingly suffered a 3-1 defeat to another Basque Country opposition Real Sociedad away from home. They also managed to make the headlines for wrong reasons when the misunderstanding between the two Spanish internationals Sergio Asenjo and Mario Gaspar gifted Sociedad their second goal of the game.

Despite the cup loss, Villarreal are currently on a great run of form in the league. Since losing to Alaves at home in late November, they have managed to win twice in the last three games and a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid sent out a huge statement to the rest of the league. Barcelona, on the other hand, have drawn three times in their last five league games.

The home side’s star striker Cedric Bakambu is away for the African Cup of Nations with DR Congo, meanwhile Denis Cheryshev and Roberto Soldado are still sidelined with injuries. The good news for the Yellow Submarine is that the club captain Bruno Soriano and the starting center back Victor Ruiz are back from injuries and will be available for this clash.

Meanwhile Barcelona are pretty much healthy apart from Jasper Cillessen, who picked up a leg injury. The rest of the squad is ready for action and to close down the gap between them and the league leaders.

Playing away to Villarreal can be a tricky task for anyone, with the Yellow Submarine only suffering one home defeat this season. They also need full three points to leapfrog Atletico Madrid and get back into top four, so an open game can be expected from the home side. Meanwhile Barcelona’s disappointing midweek defeat can serve as an extra motivation for their stars, but it can also come as an additional pressure to the team who are already fatigued by playing their second away game in just four days.

Defense continues to be the problem for this Barcelona team and if they are not careful, they can be exposed by quick and smart forwards like Nicola Sansone and Alexandre Pato. In contrary to their opposition, Villarreal are the proud owners of the current best defense in the league. The Yellow Submarine have only allowed 11 goals this season, which is the best record in the division. Fran Escriba has continued on with the former manager Marcelino’s approach by using the tight-knit 4-4-2 formation, and not allowing the opposition to create much space.

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If Barcelona want to win, some of their stars need to be on their top form because individual brilliance will be needed to walk away from El Madrigal with three points. Although this season’s Barcelona is a team that travels well in the league – proven by wins in tough venues like Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Mestalla, and San Mames – we have also seen that they can be contained by great defensive plans. Last season’s encounter ended as a 2-2 draw, and another draw seems most likely for this clash as well.

Projected Lineups

Villarreal (4-4-2) – Asenjo; Jaume Costa, Ruiz, Musacchio, Mario Gaspar; Roberto Soriano, Bruno Soriano, Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos; Pato, Sansone.

Barcelona (4-3-3) – Ter Stegen; Alba, Mascherano, Pique, Sergi Roberto; Busquets, Denis Suarez, Iniesta; Messi, Neymar, Suarez.