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After the unexpected setback in Granada, Barça will be hoping to capitalise on their excellent form at the Camp Nou in this midweek Liga fixture (kick-off 9.00pm CET, TICKETS HERE).
Ousmane Dembélé is back in the squad after a month on the side-lines, following an injury in the first game of the season in Bilbao. Ivan Rakitic, Wague and Carles Pérez have been left out this time, but there is a return for Carles Aleñá, while youth team star Ansu Fati is once again part of the first team plans. Jordi Alba and Umtiti are still injured.
Full squad: Ter Stegen, N. Semedo, Piqué, Sergio, Todibo, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, O. Dembélé, Neto, Lenglet, Griezmann, Aleñá, S. Roberto, F. De Jong, Vidal, Junior and Ansu Fati.
If Leo Messi starts, it will be for the first time this season, and the 400th time he has done so in La Liga, a milestone only one foreigner, Donato, has ever reached before. The Argentinian has either scored or assisted in his last six meetings with Villarreal.
Villarreal, who have missed out on just two seasons of top flight football since being promoted to La Liga for the first time in 1998, spent much of last season in the relegation zone but eventually scrambled their way out and finished 14th.
After picking up just two points from their first three outings, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ have won their last two games (3-0 at Leganés and 2-0 at home to Real Valladolid).
New additions to the squad this season include seasoned campaigner Raúl Albiol (back in Spain after six seasons with Napoli), Moi Gómez (arriving from Sporting Gijón and with two league goals in his account already) and promising young striker Javier Ontiveros (from Malaga).
Their top scorer this season is former Espanyol man Gerard Moreno with five, putting him second in the Pichichi chart behind Karim Benzema.
Players with a Barça past: Manu Trigueros (youth); Xavi Quintillà (Barça B)
Most capped internationals: Raúl Albiol (Spain, 52); Ramiro Funes Mori (Argentina, 24); Santi Cazorla (Spain, 78); Carlos Bacca (Colombia, 52); Karl Toko Ekambi (Cameroon, 27); Zambo Anguissa (Cameroon, 21)
Head to head
Since winning 2-1 at the Camp Nou in 2008, Villarreal have now gone 22 league and cup games without beating Barça either at home or away. This fixture had produced some big wins for the Catalans over the years (including 5-0 in 2011, 4-1 in 2017 and 5-1 in 2018).
Last season, Barça won 2-0 at the Camp Nou (goals scored by Gerard Piqué and Aleñà), while the game at the Estadio de la Cerámica was a thrilling 4-4 draw. Villarreal came from 2-0 down to lead 4-2, and then Luis Suárez and Leo Messi both netted in injury time to snatch a dramatic point.
Barça’s away form may not have been what we would expect of late, but at home the team has gone nine straight La Liga fixtures earning all three points every time, including five-goal sprees against Betis and Valencia to start 2019/20.
With 12 goals each, this game pits the two top scoring sides so far in the competition. In fact, Villarreal are looking to set a new club record by scoring in 19 consecutive league matches.
Ernesto Valverde says
"We always find it hard to play against Villarreal and they have got off to a good start after last year’s difficulties. It’s their quick players up front that could really test us, but they have good midfielders too, like Cazorla.”
The opposition’s view
Javier Calleja, a former Villarreal midfielder, has been in charge of the club since 2017, although he was sacked midway through last season and reappointed just a month later.
"We’ll be going to Barcelona with our heads held high” he said after beating Valladolid at the weekend. “Our idea is to get something positive out of the game.”
League leaders Athletic Club travel to winless Leganés (Wednesday 7.00pm CET), while Real Madrid, up to second after winning at Sevilla, entertain Osasuna (Wednesday 9.00pm CET).
Granada, up to third after shocking Barça on Saturday, travel to Real Valladolid (Tuesday 7.00pm CET), and Barça’s weekend opponents, Getafe, are at Valencia (Wednesday 8.00pm CET).
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