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Hot on the heels of their derby victory at home to Espanyol, FC Barcelona travel to Villarreal (9.30pm CET) for a midweek fixture – looking for one of six wins from their remaining nine games that would mathematically secure the Liga title.
DID YOU KNOW?
Barça are ten points clear the top of the table and have not lost for 17 consecutive league fixtures. And they are unbeaten against fourth-from-bottom Villarreal in the last 19 meetings. On paper, this game has an away win written all over it. But football is played on grass, and Barça have rarely been treated to easy games at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Leo Messi, leader in the chase for the Golden Shoe, is currently tied with Cristiano Ronaldo with a record 13 Liga goals against Villarreal. One more will make him the outright leader. He has five goals and one assist from the last five meetings, so the chances of that happening are pretty high.
THE LAST TIME WE MET
Second placed Atlético Madrid’s game at home to Girona will have just finished when this one gets under way – as win for los rojiblancos would close the gap at the top of the table to seven points. Real Madrid face a tricky trip to Valencia, who just won away to Sevilla, on Wednesday.
The players heading for the Estadio de la Ceramica are Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, Malcom, Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Boateng, Sergi Roberto, Aleñá, Vidal, Umtiti, Vermaelen and B team goalkeeper Iñaki Peña.
That means no places for Todibo or Murillo, in addition to the injured Dembélé, Rafinha and Cillessen.
Javier Calleja (Villarreal): I expect Barça to take this game very seriously … But if Messi doesn’t play it means they will be missing the best player in the world and that tells … We have to be brave, because it we aren’t we’ll pay the price.
Ernesto Valverde (Barça): There is never an ideal moment to rest Messi and although some people might think the Champions League and Atlético ate bigger matches, this is a big game too … Villarreal are in a difficult situation but they have been getting good results against the bigger teams (FULL STORY HERE)
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