La Liga Preview: Barcelona - Villarreal
Neymar opened his Champions League account on the way to a hat trick in a devastating display against Celtic and will be determined to continue his run of form on Saturday.
Barcelona hosts Villarreal on Saturday knowing the club will likely need all three points to maintain its spot at the top of the Primera Division.
Gerardo Martino's men suffered their first league loss of the campaign on Dec. 1 as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao,
That setback in La Liga has allowed title rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to gain ground on the Catalan club, with the former now behind the defending champion on goal difference only,
However, dismantling Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday with Brazilian star Neymar showing he is unperturbed by the 57 million euro price tag with a devastating display of attacking football, will have boosted his and the side's confidence heading into this weekend's fixture.
But the team is up against a Villarreal side not short of its own belief, after going well beyond mid-table expectations in the team's return to the top flight.
Martino will be aware that his side can ill-afford another slip with Real and Atletico breathing down his team's neck at the top.
Indeed, Villarreal can move ahead of Athletic - which travels to Sevilla - and into fourth place with a win at Camp Nou.
The team takes on a Barca side with a number of injury concerns ahead of the encounter.
Lionel Messi is still on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury, with goalkeeper Victor Valdes (calf) also unavailable.
Fullback Dani Alves could be in line to return after a month out of action with a calf injury, but Ibrahim Affelay and Jonathan dos Santos (both knee) are long-term absentees.
Defender Adriano is out through suspension, but the home side should be confident of defeating a side that has not beaten Barca since 2008.
That win did come at Camp Nou though, Marcos Senna and Jon Dahl Tomasson scoring in a 2-1 win.
Midfielder Cani is a doubt for Villarreal after picking up a knee injury in a Copa del Rey clash with Elche, while Francisco Javier Farinos (Achilles) remains unavailable.
Bruno is banned, but the onus for the visiting side should be on former Barca forward Giovani dos Santos, who will be keen to breach the home defense and add to his tally of seven goals in all competitions.
Top 3 Predictions
Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal
- 16.71 %
Barcelona 4-0 Villarreal
- 11.22 %
Barcelona 3-0 Villarreal
- 9.55 %
|La Liga (LIGA)||Dec 14, 2013||Barcelona 2 - Villarreal 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||Jan 28, 2012||Villarreal 0 - Barcelona 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||Aug 29, 2011||Barcelona 5 - Villarreal 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||Apr 2, 2011||Villarreal 0 - Barcelona 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||Nov 13, 2010||Barcelona 3 - Villarreal 1|
|Mar 8, 2014||Valladolid 1 - Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Mar 2, 2014||Barcelona 4 - Almeria 1||LIGA|
|Feb 22, 2014||Real Sociedad 3 - Barcelona 1||LIGA|
|Feb 18, 2014||Manchester City 0 - Barcelona 2||UCL|
|Feb 15, 2014||Barcelona 6 - Rayo Vallecano 0||LIGA|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|17||Giovani dos Santos||Striker|