Barcelona will host Villarreal in La Liga on Thursday night, hoping to bounce back from the defeat in El Clasico at the weekend.
Barcelona, who face Villarreal next, were in impressive form heading into El Clasico. But they suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid and have now dropped down to second in the league table.
Xavi Hernandez will be desperate for his side to bounce back strongly and close the gap on their arch-rivals. A win would certainly boost them after some disappointing performances in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
Meanwhile, Villarreal are seventh in the league table and have been quite inconsistent this season. They will need to improve significantly to build on a positive result at the Camp Nou.
Despite the recent ups and downs, Barcelona will be firm favorites going into the game and it remains to be seen if they can get all three points here. The last time these two sides met, Villarreal won 2-0 at the Camp Nou in May. And the visiting side will be hoping for something similar here.
Barcelona will be without the services of Memphis Depay, Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen for this match. While Depay and Araujo are sidelined with muscle injuries, summer signing Christensen is suffering from an ankle problem.
Xavi is likely to continue with his usual 4-3-3 formation here, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen starting in goal. Experienced full-back Sergi Roberto will start on the right side of defense and Alejandro Balde will be deployed at left-back. Meanwhile, Gerard Pique is likely to partner Eric Garcia at the heart of Barcelona’s defence.
Experienced Sergio Busquets will be deployed in midfield as a midfielder, who will be responsible for winning the ball back and breaking up opposition attacks. The 35-year-old Spaniard will be joined by youngsters Gavi and Pedri in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield.
While Gavi is expected to control the tempo of the game and recycle possession, Pedri will look to add flair and creativity in the middle.
Ansu Fati has been quite impressive with his cameos of late and is likely to start here on the right side of attack. Robert Lewandowski will continue to lead the way and will be desperate to get on the scoresheet after a poor performance in El Clasico. Ousmane Dembele had a stunning game against Real Madrid as well and will look to establish himself as a left winger here.
The guests also have their problems with injuries. Villarreal will be without Juan Foyth, Francis Coquelin and Gerardo Moreno. Coquelin is suffering from a calf injury while Foyth injured his knee against Getafe. Moreno has a thigh problem and is also set to miss out.
Unai Emery’s men are likely to line up in a 4-3-3 with Geronimo Rulli in goal. Aissa Mandi will start at right-back and Raul Albiol will partner Pau Torres in the heart of Villarreal’s defence. Alfonso Pedraza should start as a left back.
The experienced Albiol will be expected to keep Robert Lewandowski at bay, while Torres will help the visitors build from the back with his impressive distribution. Mandi and Pedraza are expected to protect the center backs and provide some width up front.
Dani Parejo, Manu Morlanes and Alex Baena are expected to form a trifecta in midfield. While Parejo will sit back and dictate the tempo of the game, Morlanes will be expected to disrupt play and disrupt Barcelona’s passing. Baena will add some creativity and connect the midrange with the attack.
In the final third, Arnaut Danjuma and Yeremy Pino will operate as wide forwards and Nicolas Jackson is expected to lead the way in Moreno’s absence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3):
ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Garcia, Balde; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Fati, Lewandowski, Dembele
Probable Lineup (4-3-3):
Rulli; Mandi, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Baena, Morlanes, Parejo; Danjuma, Jackson, Pino