PREVIEW: Villarreal v FC Barcelona

PREVIEW: Villarreal v FC Barcelona

The first away trip of the Xavi era is to a strong opponent against which the Catalans have an excellent recent track record

The third game of the Xavi Hernández era, and the first away from Camp Nou, takes FC Barcelona to Villarreal for a Saturday 9.00pm CET kick-off.

At first glance, a trip to the home of the ‘Yellow Submarine’, competing in the Champions League this season, is one of the hardest fixtures of the season. However, the Catalans have an extraordinary brilliant record against the side now coached by Unai Emery. They are on an incredible run of 27 games without defeat to one of the typically stronger sides in La Liga, including 14 visits to the Estadio de la Cerámica without being toppled once.


But, of course, a team cannot live on past achievements alone. Make no mistake, this is not an easy game.

How it stands

After getting off to a winning start under their new manager by defeating Espanyol 1-0 in last weekend’s derby, the team has moved up two places to seventh in the table. But they are still far from the kind of position that one would normally expect them to be going into December.

Six points still separate Barça from the Champions League places, and they are ten adrift of the new leaders, Real Madrid, who moved to the top after Real Sociedad were held at home to Valencia on Sunday.

In one of the other big games this weekend, Real Madrid are at home to Sevilla on Sunday at 9.00pm CET.

Team news

Barça were held to a 0-0 draw against Benfica midweek. It wasn’t the victory they needed to ensure a place in the last sixteen, but at least they go into their final game in Munich knowing that qualification will not depend on other results going their way.

One of the best things about Tuesday’s game was the sight of Ousmane Dembélé not only returning from injury, but making a massive impression on the game after he came on. He's done that kind of thing against Villarreal in the past too...


There are still other injury concerns though. Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Kun Agüero and Sergi Roberto will all be missing for Saturday’s fixture. New signing Dani Alves will not be eligible until January.

Xavi is again drawing on youth, with Ez Abde and Ilias Akhomach re-joining the squad after forced absences against Benfica. The former is not registered for European competitions and the latter was serving a suspension.

Did you know?

Memphis, Barça’s top goalscorer this season with five, has scored in each of his last three league games.

Villarreal come into this game after a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester United in the Champions League. Like Barça, qualification hangs in their final game, which in their case is away to their direct rival, Atalanta.

Barça are looking to win back-to-back Liga games for the first time this season. Victory at Villarreal would also be their first on the road in this competition.

Last five games

Nov 20 (UCL) Barça 0-0 Benfica
Nov 17 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Espanyol
Nov 6 (LIGA) Celta 3-3 Barça
Nov 2 (UCL) Dynamo Kyiv 0-1 Barça
Oct 28 (LIGA) Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Barça

Nov 23 (UCL) Villarreal 0-2 Man United
Nov 20 (LIGA) Celta 1-1 Villarreal
Nov 7 (LIGA) Villarreal 1-0 Getafe
Nov 2 (UCL) Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Oct 30 (LIGA) Valencia 2-0 Villarreal

Xavi says

“There’s football. I can see that in the training sessions, but we need to know how to attack properly at certain times. We need to take more risks, not just do things right. Just doing the right thing isn’t enough at Barça.”

“We need to aim for excellence. We need to get 10 out of 10. Right now we might be getting 7 or 8, but if you aim for 7 or 8, then you end up with 5. And that’s not good enough at Barça.”

“It is very important for us to get these three points. It’s a difficult ground against a direct opponent that’s competing with us for Champions League places. Winning would be a turning point.”

“We have to win every game. That’s the target. We’ll have to see where we are as a team, how we’re competing, but the main target is obviously just to make sure of the three points.”


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Força Barça

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