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Barça take a trip this Sunday to take on Villarreal in the Estadio de la Cerámica, kick off 9pm CET, with the home side currently in sixth place in the table, just four points off the Champions League qualification places. Let’s take a closer look at the opposition.
Villarreal are the classic example of how a team from a small town can mix it with the big boys. The club spent most of its existence in the regional leagues, but made it into the second division in the 1990s and in 1998 won promotion to the top flight for the first time ever.
They were not expected to stay long, but two decades later they are still there. In 2008 they finished as high as second.
They got as far as the Champions League semi-finals in 2006, the kind of achievement many assumed would never be repeated, but last season they were in the last four again, eventually going out to Liverpool.
Not bad for a city of just 50,000 people!
HEAD TO HEAD
There was a period about a decade ago when Barça developed a nasty habit of slipping up against Villarreal. But the ‘bogey team’ label was emphatically confined to the past when Barça went on an incredible spree of 27 games without defeat to the ‘Yellow Submarine’ in all competitions.
That run came to an end in May of 2022 when Villarreal beat the Catalans in the last game of the 2021/22 season. However, earlier this season the blaugranes got back to winning ways against Sunday's opposition with a 3-0 win at home in La Liga.
Barça striker Ansu Fati will surely be looking forward to Sunday's game as the groguets are the team against whom he has scored most goals in La Liga. The blaugrana has found the net four times against Villarreal, scoring twice in five minutes in the 4-0 win at Spotify Camp Nou in a league game in September 2020 and also finding the net in the victory in the first meeting between the sides in the 2022/23 La Liga season.
Last five games (all La Liga)
20/10/22 Barça 3-0 Villarreal
22/05/22 Barça 0-2 Villarreal
27/11/21 Villarreal 1-3 Barça
25/04/21 Villarreal 1-2 Barça
27/09/20 Barça 4-0 Villarreal
Villarreal started their season in excellent form, collecting 10 points out of a possible 12 from their first four games without conceding a single goal before the departure of boss Unai Emery led to a dip in form for the 'Yellow Submarine'. More recently, a run of six wins in all competitions under new coach Quique Setién saw them regain confidence before another downturn in form has seen them win just once in their last five outings.
Most international caps
Aïssa Mandi (Algeria, 80), Raul Albiol (Spain, 58), Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina, 41), Pepe Reina (Spain, 36), Samuel Chukwueze (Nigeria, 25), Pau Torres (Spain, 23), Johan Mojica (Colombia, 20), Gerard Moreno (Spain, 17), Juan Foyth (Argentina, 17).
Top goalscorers 2022/23 (La Liga)
Gerard Moreno (5), Álex Baena (4)
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina is best known for his years at Liverpool, but before that he spent seven years at Barça, mainly as a reserve. His most recent club was Lazio before returning to Villarreal, where he already had a three-year spell from 2002–2005. Right back Kiko Femenía was with Barça B from 2011–2013. After five years at Watford, he joined Villarreal in the summer of 2022.
Centre back Jorge Cuenca was also at Barça B, in his case from 2017–2020, before joining Villarreal, although he spent his first two seasons on loan to Almería and Getafe. Midfield stalwart Manu Trigueros spent one year playing for the Barça U18 team before leaving for Murcia.
Another Barça connection at Villarreal is their current boss Quique Setién. The 64 year old was FC Barcelona coach in the 2019/20 season and he now find himself in charge of the 'Yellow Submarine' after the departure of former boss Unai Emery for Premier League club Aston Villa. Emery's last game in charge was the 3-0 defeat in October against Barça at Spotify Camp Nou. As his replacement, Setién has so far led in the side in 15 matches in all competition, winning seven, drawing two and losing six.
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