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Villarreal are Barça’s opponents in Week 11 in the league, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ coming to Camp Nou as the blaugranes’ final opponents before a break in the domestic calendar for international matches. Luis Enrique’s side are looking for all three points in order to keep pace at the top of the table with rivals Real Madrid whom they meet in two weeks time in the Santiago Bernabéu when La Liga resumes following the upcoming international fixtures.
Barça suffered the latest in a long line of injury setbacks this season on Wednesday when Ivan Rakitic limped off early in the first half of the 3-0 win over BATE Borisov in the Champions League. The Croatian has a calf problem and will definitely miss the visit of Villarreal to Camp Nou. He was one of the absentees as Barça trained for the final time on Saturday ahead of their league clash with the ‘groguets’ this weekend. Also missing still due to injury were Leo Messi, Rafinha and Douglas whilst Javier Mascherano has to serve the second of a two game ban following his dismissal in the win over Eibar. Coach Luis Enrique once again supplemented training with Gerard Gumbau and Sergi Samper from the B team squad and the youngsters have been included in the squad for Sunday's game.
Villarreal coach Marcelino García named his squad following their final training session before leaving for Barcelona on Saturday. The visitors have injury worries of their own with keeper Sergio Asenjo and centre back Mateo Musacchio on their way back from long term lay offs. Also missing due to injury will be Adrián López and Leo Baptistao whilst former Espanyol defender Eric Bailly is suspended. There are, however, places in the squad for former blaugranes Jonathan dos Santos and Denis Suárez.
Barça coach Luis Enrique appeared in front of the press on Saturday at the Ciutat Esportiva immediately after his squad’s final training session of the week. The Barça boss had nothing but praise for Sunday’s opponents, the experiences of last season still fresh in his mind: “They are what we could consider one of the more difficult opponents because of the football they play, their place in the table, and because they’re never easy to play against. Last season’s games in the league and cup were difficult, we know we are going to have to work very hard tomorrow and be at our best.”
Villarreal boss Marcelino also appeared before the media on Saturday before leaving for Barcelona. The ‘Yellow Submarine’ coach was keen to highlight Barça’s recent improvement at the back; “I think that Barcelona found it difficult defensively at the start of the season but now they are more secure and dynamic. I think they have improved in that aspect, their individual level is better and so it will be more difficult now. They are an organised side but we will try to give them problems.”
Since losing to Sevilla on 3 October, Barça have won five and drawn once in six matches. Home and away wins against BATE Borisov in the Champions League have taken them to within a point of qualification for the last 16 of the competition and victories over Rayo Vallencano, Eibar and Getafe in the league mean they now share top spot with Real Madrid on 24 points from 10 games in La Liga.
Villarreal have lost just twice in the league this season and currently in fifth place in the table on 20 points following from last weekend’s impressive 2-1 win at home in El Madrigal over Sevilla. Their only defeat away from home has come at lowly Levante during the current campaign and on Thursday they took a big step towards making the knock out stages of the UEFA Europa League with a 2-1 win over Dinamo Minsk that leaves them in second place in their group behind Rapid Vienna.
Barça have not lost to Villarreal in their last 14 matches and the blaugranes have won their last six at Camp Nou in all competitions against Sunday’s opponents. Villarreal’s last league win came in 2007/08 when they left Barcelona with a 2-1 win under their belts. Last season the teams met twice at FC Barcelona, Luis Enrique’s team coming from behind twice to win 3-2 in the league before taking a 3-1 victory just ten days later in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final.
No matter where you are in the world, we have you covered. And remember, you can also listen to live commentary in English on Radio Barça. The radio link will appear on www.fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.
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