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Match Previews

Villarreal vs Barcelona: team news, possible XIs, score prediction and match facts in La Liga round 34 preview

Everything you need to know in the preview to Sunday’s match between Villarreal and Barcelona

Hariharan Balaji

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Header Image by Lluís Gené / AFP via Getty Images

Five games remain as Barça chase Real Madrid, who are four points ahead. With everything on the line, the game is almost a do-or-die contest for the Catalans. Here’s the preview of yet another must-win match for Barcelona as they face Villarreal.


Date and kick-off time: Sunday 5 July 2020, 22:00 CET

Stadium: Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal

Competition: La Liga, matchday 34

Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande


Overview

The reigning champions chase their eternal rivals, with four points separating the two. Barça’s draw with Atlético de Madrid at the Camp Nou put them in a disadvantageous position, and Real Madrid grabbed the opportunity to go clear. Los Blancos won a hard-fought contest with Getafe and stretched their lead at the top to four points, making it tricky for the Catalan outfit to retain the title. With only five games remaining, and Madrid grinding results every game, Barcelona have to win the rest, and can only hope Zinedine Zidane’s men drop points. 

“They [Villarreal] are doing things very well, with a lot of talent and players in good form, who defend well and who are going to compromise us a lot because they are playing at home. But we played a pretty good game against Atlético de Madrid and I hope we are at that level and get through the game”

Quique Setién
in the pre-match press conference

In the 34th matchday of La Liga, Barcelona travel to the La Cerámica, the home of an in-form Villarreal. The hosts are unbeaten since the restart just like the visitors but have drawn only one game. They are in excellent touch, with only Madrid having a better points tally since the break. With the points-dropping form the culés are in, they might be in for a tricky test away from home. 

The games between the two sides never seem to disappoint the general audience. Barça came out with a win in the reverse fixture, as Antoine Grizemann and Arthur Melo scored early with a Cazorla special for the then visitors. Villarreal are on the cusp of Champions League qualification with only three points separating them from Sevilla in fourth. A positive result – a win – could help both the teams immensely in their respective objectives.

What to expect from Villarreal?

Villarreal were on a three-match losing streak going into the break but returned with possibly their form of the season. With nine goals for and two goals against since the restart, the Yellow Submarine is back to its prime. They have turned up immensely after the break, with results displaying the mettle of their quality oozing squad. Manager Javier Calleja, in his second stint, has found the right team balance and structure to deal with different kinds of opponents.

Gerard Moreno Santi Cazorla Villarreal Barcelona match preview

Santi Cazorla creates, Gerard Moreno finishes | Photo by AFP7 via Imago

Villarreal often deploy two strikers at the top with one feeding off the other. Two of the most crucial personnel in their attack are Gerard Moreno and Santi Cazorla. While the former is often known to trouble Gerrard Piqué and get into arguments, especially during Moreno’s time at Espanyol, he has spoken with his foot this time around. With 15 goals and four assists in La Liga, he has been one of the best players for the hosts with the season being one of his career bests. Either Carlos Bacca or Paco Alcácer tend to accompany the Spaniard upfront.

Javier Calleja is likely to set his team up in a 4–4–2, with Alcácer and Gerard Moreno up top. He could choose Samuel Chukwueze to hit Barça on the break, as he has done before. With Vicente Iborra and Zambo Anguissa in midfield alongside Santi Cazorla, the rest of the team picks itself baring any possible rotations from the manager. Ramiro Funes Mori remains out with Sofian Chakla doubtful for the clash. An in-form Submarino Amarillo with the ever-magical Santi Cazorla awaits the Catalans.

What to expect from Barcelona?

With two consecutive 2–2 draws coming into this fixture, Barcelona have made their fans second guess their match predictions. While the results have not shown anything progressive, a significant change in tactics is visible. More specifically, on how the team conducts and structures itself while in possession. With Barça struggling to break down low blocks, coach Quique Setién seems to have found a way to compensate for the lack of personnel in some areas.

Other than the young Ansu Fati, the Catalans don’t have a genuine winger in the team. So the manager has decided to push the full-backs high up the pitch to maintain width while one midfielder joins the defensive line to cover for the space left vacant by them. The tactic has resulted in Barça dominating space and getting the numerical superiority up the pitch. The fans can expect a similar approach in this game with better-suited players available. Sergi Roberto did not start the last game, but came on to create a solid impression and can start at right-back this time around.

“Griezmann is a great player and very important for the club and the team. Not everyone can play and I have to decide on my front line and who I think contributes to the team. I take into account the importance and the hierarchy of each player, but in a club like Barça with so many players… I know that some are going to get angry because not all are fit and it is a decision that I must take responsibility for, and that is what I do”

Quique Setién

Frenkie de Jong remains on the sidelines after his calf injury, and Samuel Umtiti has succumbed to yet another knee injury. Seven players, namely Lionel Messi, Iván Rakitić, Arturo Vidal, Luis Suárez, Martin Braithwaite, Clément Lenglet and Junior Firpo, are on the risk of suspension with four yellows. Antoine Griezmann, who just played two minutes vs his previous club, could feature here to boost his morale. With better utilisation of space and finishing off the chances created, Barcelona can hopefully get back to winning ways.


Form

Villarreal CF

Last 5 games: WWDWW

Real Betis 0–2 Villarreal | La Liga
Villarreal 2–0 Valencia | La Liga
Villarreal 2–2 Sevilla | La Liga
Granada 0–1 Villarreal | La Liga
Villarreal 1–0 Mallorca | La Liga

Position in La Liga

5th
54 points in 33 games
16 wins, 6 draws and 11 losses
53 Goals Scored, 40 Goals Conceded
+13 Goal Difference

“My worry is that we think that everything is done already. There’s still a lot to play for. We cannot fall into euphoria”

Javier Calleja
Villarreal manager on his team being only three points away from the Champions League spots

FC Barcelona

Last 5 games: DDWDW

Barcelona 2–2 Atlético de Madrid | La Liga
Celta de Vigo 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–0 Athletic Club de Bilbao | La Liga
Sevilla 0–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 2–0 Leganés | La Liga

Position in La Liga

2nd 
70 points in 33 games
21 wins, 7 draws and 5 losses
74 Goals Scored, 35 Goals Conceded
+39 Goal Difference

Head-to-head record

Last 5 meetings

Barcelona 2–1 Villarreal | La Liga, 19/20
Villarreal 4–4 Barcelona | La Liga, 18/19
Barcelona 2–0 Villarreal | La Liga, 18/19
Barcelona 5–1 Villarreal | La Liga, 17/18
Villarreal 0–2 Barcelona | La Liga, 17/18


Match facts

• Barcelona have scored at least two goals in their last six matches against Villarreal in all competitions

• Villarreal have won five and lost none of their last six matches in La Liga

• Barcelona are undefeated in their last 23 matches against Villarreal in all competitions

• Barça are undefeated in their last seven La Liga matches


Team news and possible line-ups

Villarreal CF

Absences

Injured: Ramiro Guerra, Ramiro Funes Mori
Doubtful: Sofian Chakla
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–4–2
Asenjo
Mario Gaspar · Albiol · Pau Torres · Alberto Moreno
Chukwueze · Iborra · Anguissa · Santi Cazorla
Gerard Moreno · Alcácer
Coach: Javier Calleja

“We’re going into the match full of motivation, we’re excited and convinced that we can get three points against one of the best teams in the world. We’ve done something very difficult and we have to continue like that. If we give 100%, are focused and have a winning mentality, we have a chance of coming away with a victory”

Javier Calleja

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Ousmane Dembélé (hamstring), Frenkie de Jong (calf), Samuel Umtiti (knee)
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–3–3
Ter Stegen
Sergi Roberto · Piqué · Lenglet · Jordi Alba
Rakitić · Busquets · Riqui Puig
Messi · Suárez · Griezmann
Coach: Quique Setién


Prediction

For the first time since the restart, Barcelona play after the leaders, Real Madrid. With the form Los Blancos are in, Barça might have to prepare to chase a seven-point lead when their game starts. With this added pressure, it is a necessity to win this game, not only to stay in the race but to show for some improvement in the general gameplay. The writer’s prediction: 1–2 win for the Catalans.


See more

• Tactical analysis: A look at Barcelona rivals Villarreal CF

The one flaw to an almost perfect player: friendship

• The evident difference between Samuel Umtiti and Clément Lenglet

• The palpable decline of Luis Suárez

I got into watching football for the emotions of it. A goal followed by a crazy celebration from the player gave me goosebumps. But, watching the beautiful game over the years, I realised it was much more than just goals. The passing, the movements, the positioning and the effort involved behind the scenes opened my eyes to what football was. I keep trying to learn more about this incredible game and pass on what I learnt with a tinge of passion attached to it.

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Match Previews

A preview of Barça’s first game of the season against Villareal

Hariharan Balaji

Published

on

Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

With already two matchdays completed in La Liga, Barça kick off their campaign on the third against the Yellow Submarine. The Catalans begin their title charge under new manager, Ronald Koeman, at the Camp Nou. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Villarreal. 


Date and kick-off time: Sunday 27 September 2020, 21:00 CET

Stadium: Camp Nou

Competition: La Liga, matchday 3

Referee: Guillermo Cuadra Fernández


Overview

A new season with a new manager and a partially renewed squad, Barcelona once again try to gloss over the cracks of the previous disappointing season for the third time in a row. In a bid to reduce the overarching wage bill, Barcelona have let go of some of their top-earning veterans for peanuts. Ivan Rakitić, Arturo Vidal, and Luis Suárez have left the club almost for free with significant earnings on the sale of Nelson Semedo. 

Apart from the already agreed transfers and players returning from loan, Barça are yet to complete a signing this window. They are unlikely to do so before the start of the game for the player to be eligible to play. While the numbers in attack and midfield are overwhelming, albeit the absence of different profiles, the defence remains understaffed and underwhelming. 

In contrast to Barcelona, their visitors have built upon their successful season by backing their new manager with excellent signings. Villarreal have dealt with the departures of several key players and have replaced them economically and efficiently. 

With an unusually short pre-season, both the new managers have had little time to implement their ideas and stamp their authority on the team. Will be an intriguing matchup considering that the match is at Camp Nou but without the fans. 

What to expect from Barcelona?

Ronald Koeman has made it clear with the three pre-season games that 4-2-3-1 is the way forward under his stewardship. The Dutchman has been straightforward with the players about his plans. He has also stated that he intends to field the players in their best positions as much as possible. So, both Frenkie de Jong and Antonie Griezmann will likely get their favoured spots.

The shift to the new formation has its pros and cons. The Mediapunta role benefits some of the central players of the squad to have more authority in the attack. But, with one less man in midfield and the double-pivot being flat ends in the defence reeling if the opponents break the first press to counter. Koeman must find a solution to this before stronger sides in La Liga exploit Barça in this regard. 

The Catalans are without the services of Marc-André ter Stegen who is out till October with Neto filling in between the sticks. Martin Braithwaite is also out with a minor injury. The defence has further weakened with no proper right back in the squad ending in Sergi Roberto once again filling in. Samuel Umtiti situation is still unclear with the club keen to offload the injury-prone Frenchman. 

What to expect from Villarreal?

Unai Emery’s Villarreal have already played two games this season drawing one and winning another. Despite a successful last season, Javier Calleja was relieved of his duties, which was quite vague. But, they have appointed a more experienced and a proven winner in Emery and backed him with the players. On paper, they look like a team to keep an eye on this season in La Liga. 

Emery has changed the system to a 4-4-2 with new signings Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin slotting in the midfield. Chukwueze and Moi Gomez flank the two with the impressive Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer upfront. New signing Pervis Estupiñán might fill in at left-back after earning the move with an excellent debut season in La Liga. 

Last season’s Zarra trophy winner Moreno has hit the ground running with two goals in two games. Dani Parejo is trying to adjust to new surroundings in Villarreal after almost spending his entire senior career at Valencia. The experienced Raul Albiol is a doubt for the clash with a broken nose. Still unbeaten under Emery, the Yellow Submarine would love to extend the run and make a dent to the host’s start to the campaign. 


Form

FC Barcelona

Previous games: WWW

Barcelona 1–0 Elche | Joan Gamper Trophy
Barcelona 3–1 Girona | Club Friendly
Barcelona 3–1 Gimnastic| Club Friendly

Position in La Liga

16th 
0 points in 0 games
0 wins, 0 draws and 0 losses
0 Goals Scored, 0 Goals Conceded
0 Goal Difference

Villarreal CF

Previous games: WDLWL

Villarreal 2–1 Eibar | La Liga
Villarreal 1–1 Huesca | La Liga
Villarreal 1–2 Levante | Club Friendly
Real Sociedad 0–2 Villarreal | Club Friendly
Valencia 2–1 Villarreal | Club Friendly

Position in La Liga

5th
4 points in 2 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses
3 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+1 Goal Difference

Head-to-head record

Last 5 meetings

Villarreal 1–4 Barcelona | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 2–1 Villarreal | La Liga, 19/20
Villarreal 4–4 Barcelona | La Liga, 18/19
Barcelona 2–0 Villarreal | La Liga, 18/19
Barcelona 5–1 Villarreal | La Liga, 17/18


Match facts

• Barcelona have won their last 10 home matches against Villarreal in all competitions.

• There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 6 of Villarreal’s last 7 games (LaLiga).

• Barcelona are undefeated in 11 of their last 12 matches (LaLiga).

• Barcelona have scored at least 2 goals in their last 10 home matches against Villarreal in all competitions. 


Team news and possible line-ups

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Braithwaite
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–2–3–1
Neto
Roberto · Piqué · Lenglet · Jordi Alba
Frenkie de Jong · Busquets
Coutinho
Messi · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman

Villarreal CF

Absences

Injured: Alberto Moreno, Ramiro Guerra, Rubén Peña, Raúl Albiol
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–4–2
Asenjo
Gaspar · Ramiro Funes Mori · Pau Torres · Pervis Estupiñán
Chukwueze · Coquelin · Parejo · Moi Gomes
Gerard Moreno · Paco Alcacer
Coach: Unai Emery


Predictions

Barcelona’s and Ronald Koeman’s first official game of the season is far from easy. Villarreal are a top side in the Spanish top flight, and a positive result in this game could set them in the right path. While the defence still seems precarious, the attack has improved and might be enough to get them over the line in this game. The writer’s prediction: 3-1 win for the Catalans. 

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