Neymar battling with Dos Santos and Mario Gaspar during last season / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Villarreal go into Sunday’s game against FC Barcelona in optimistic mood after an impressive start to the 2015/2016 league campaign. Coach Marcelino Gracía has a new look squad after bringing in several new faces in the summer and the team has settled quickly, currently occupying fifth place in the table, just four behind leaders Real Madrid and Barça. The team known as the ‘Yellow Submarine’ have recorded wins over demanding opponents such as Atlético Madrid, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao. Barça’s next opponents are not just performing domestically but also in Europe where they are second in their group in the UEFA Europa League, three points behind leaders Rapid Vienna.

Changes in the squad

The team from the region of Castelló had a busy summer with several notable arrivals and departures. In attack the likes of Roberto Soldado, Matías Nahuel, Cedric Bakambu, Leo Baptistao and Samu Castillejo have had the job of replacing key figures from last season such as Gerard Moreno, Uche, Denis Cheryshev and Lucian Vietto, all of who left the club in the close season. Those players came up with 29 goals between them last year – on Sunday at Camp Nou Villarreal’s principal threat in attack will be Bakambu who is the team’s top scorer in the league with four goals.

In midfield captain Bruno Soriano and Tomas Pina anchor operations alongside former Barça men Jonathan Dos Santos and Denis Suárez – for the latter the blaugranes still retain a buy back clause at the end of this season. Villarreal have not beaten the Catalans in 14 matches but that fact does not stop them being one of the toughest sides to take in the division and games between the two clubs is an almost certain guarantee of entertaining football.

Return to Camp Nou for Denis Suárez and Jonathan Dos Santos

The two midfielders make their return to Camp Nou on Sunday. For Dos Santos it will be his third visit as a Villarreal played after appearing twice for his new club last season in the league and the Copa del Rey. Denis Suárez appeared at Camp Nou last season with Sevilla but on Sunday he could well appear in a Villarreal shirt having made seven leagues appearances in 10 games for Marcelino García’s side so far this season.

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