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FC Barcelona’s third-to-last La Liga match of the season — and, undoubtedly, its most complicated of those still to play — comes this Saturday, when top-tier Villarreal, which is engaged in a tight battle for a coveted spot in European competition next season, visits the Catalan capital in what, for both sides, amounts to a final.
Barça, hanging in first place on the ultra-fine thread of superior goal differential yet facing the very real specter of winning out only to eventually lose their razor-thin lead to a second-place side with a game in hand, finds itself amidst a seemingly interminable string of must-win games that will accompany it all the way to the finish line.
La Liga standings snapshot:
Head-to-head in last five La Liga meetings at Camp Nou:
|2010/11||11||Barça 3–1 Villarreal|
|2011/12||2||Barça 5–0 Villarreal|
|2013/14||16||Barça 2–1 Villarreal|
|2014/15||21||Barça 3–2 Villarreal|
|2015/16||11||Barça 3–0 Villarreal|
Form guide in La Liga:
Last 5 games:
Barça: L W W W W
Villarreal: W L W W W
Barça last 5 home games: W W W W W
Villarreal last 5 away games: W L W L W
FC Barcelona is riding a 15-game unbeaten streak versus Villarreal in La Liga, including both home and away games...In fact, its last league defeat to El Submarino Amarillo came at Camp Nou, 2–1, back in March of 2008...Barça comes into the game having won its last 10 home games in La Liga, the team's longest such streak since Luis Enrique signed on as manager before the 2014/15 season...Lionel Messi is second among active La Liga players in goals scored against Villarreal, with nine...five of them have come at Camp Nou...Villarreal is Neymar’s second favorite victim across all competitions, having yielded eight goals to the Brazilian...Luis Suárez has scored the opening goal in a game nine times this season, tops in La Liga...Speaking of Messi–Suárez–Neymar, aka The Trident, aka the MSN, the trio are by far the best attacking threesome in Europe this season, having scored 98 goals across all competitions...Messi has scored 49 goals; Suárez 34; Neymar 15...Messi and Suárez are also the top two scorers in La Liga this season with, respecitvely, 33 and 26 goals...Suárez, moreover, leads the league in assists, with 12, while Neymar is third with 10, and Messi is tied for fourth with nine.
Barça welcomes Iniesta back into the matchday squad while the long-standing absentees Rafinha, Aleix Vidal and Mathieu, as well as Masip miss out. The complete squad:
Goalkeepers Marc-André Ter Stegen and Jasper Cillessen; Defenders Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano. Jordi Alba, Lucas Digne, Sergi Roberto, and Samuel Umtiti; Midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Denis Suárez, Arda Turan, Andrés Iniesta, and André Gomes; Strikers Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, and Paco Alcácer.
The Yellow Submarine, as they are so aptly named due to their bright, monochrome kits, come to Camp Nou looking to extend their three-game league winning streak...A fourth consecutive victory would be their best under head coach Fran Escribá, who is in his first season at the helm...Forward Cédric Bakambu has six goals and one assist in his last five appearances in La Liga...Bakambu is Villarreal’s leading scorer, with 10 league goals...another key player for Villarreal will be Jonathan Dos Santos, who spent five seasons with Barça's first team and the reserves, from 2009–2014.
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