MX23RW : Saturday, September 25 04:07:48| >> :120:18034:18034:
Dec 2, 2018 at 5.30pm UK at Camp Nou (Barcelona)
Attendance: 73,003
Pique (36'), Alena (87')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Barcelona vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides the team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of this weekend's clash between Barcelona and Villarreal.

Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways in La Liga when they welcome a struggling Villarreal to Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Spanish champions have only collected one point from their last two matches to relinquish first spot in the table to Sevilla, but could return to the summit with a win if other results go for them this weekend.


Barcelona players celebrate scoring against PSV Eindhoven on November 28, 2018© Reuters

Just three points separate the top four teams in La Liga entering Week 14, and Barcelona slipped off the top of the table following their failure to collect all three points away to Atletico Madrid last weekend.

Ousmane Dembele cancelled out a Diego Costa header to see Barcelona draw 1-1 with Atletico in Madrid. When taking everything into account, it was a good result for the reigning champions, but they have now dropped points in six of their 13 league matches during the 2018-19 campaign.

As it stands, Barcelona are second in the table on 25 points, one point behind leaders Sevilla. Atletico in third have 24 points, while surprise package Alaves have 23 after 13 matches. Even Real Madrid down in sixth are just five points off Barcelona, which seems incredible when considering the capital side's issues.

It would be fair to say that Barcelona have not been at their free-flowing best this season, but they are still the top scorers in the league with 35 goals. There does seem to be an issue down the other end though, with 19 goals conceded up there with the worst defensive records at this stage of the season.

Barcelona did manage to secure top spot in their Champions League group during the week, with a 2-1 success over PSV Eindhoven meaning that they cannot be caught. Once again there were defensive issues though, and Villarreal will be encouraged ahead of this weekend's match.

Indeed, Real Betis scored four times at Camp Nou earlier this month to triumph, while Girona and Athletic Bilbao have also prevented Barcelona from winning in front of their own supporters this season.

Barcelona only have four more La Liga matches before the winter break in Spain, and Ernesto Valverde's team will be desperate to return to winning ways this weekend. Should that not happen, the champions might well find themselves as low as fourth entering their mouthwatering visit to Espanyol on December 8.

Recent form: DWWWLD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDLDW


Pablo Fornals in action for Villarreal in the Europa League on October 25, 2018© Reuters

Three wins, five draws and five defeats – that is how Villarreal have performed in La Liga this season. It has brought them 14 points, which is only enough for 16th position, and has left them just three points outside of the relegation zone.

Since returning to La Liga for the 2013-14 campaign, Villarreal have finished sixth, sixth, fourth, fifth and fifth. Many would have fancied them to enjoy a similar position this season, and while that still might be the case, there have been issues in the early stages of the 2018-19 campaign.

Villarreal have only lost one of their last five in La Liga though, and that includes a 1-1 draw with Atletico. The Yellow Submarine picked up three much-needed points at home to Betis last weekend, while they are only four points off the top of the table despite their issues thus far this term.

Goals have been an issue this season, with just 13 in their 13 league fixtures. Only five teams have managed fewer in Spain's top flight this season, and the fact that their top scorer is Gerard Moreno with just three will be a concern.

Like Barcelona, Villarreal were in European action during the week. The Spanish outfit travelled to Scotland to take on Rangers in the Europa League, and a point against Steven Gerrard's side left them top of the table on seven points.

Javier Calleja's team have been the draw specialists this season, having shared the points in four of their five Europa League group matches. The Yellow Submarine have drawn five of their last six games in all competitions, meanwhile, and would certainly take that result at Camp Nou this weekend.

Recent form: LDLDDW
Recent form (all competitions): DDDDWD

Team News

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez celebrates scoring against Real Madrid in El Clasico on October 28, 2018© Reuters

Barcelona have a fairly extensive injury list at the moment, but the problem was not made worse in the win over PSV earlier this week.

Samuel Umtiti and Arthur are the only two who missed the midweek match that have a chance of returning to the XI this weekend.

That said, Umtiti is still struggling with his knee, which should see Clement Lenglet continue alongside Gerard Pique in central defence, with Arthur coming into the midfield in place of Arturo Vidal.

Luis Suarez will again miss out with a knee problem, meaning that Dembele and Philippe Coutinho should again join Lionel Messi in the final third.

However, Malcom and Denis Suarez are also forward options for Valverde, who will be keen to return to winning ways in La Liga.

As for Villarreal, head coach Calleja rung the changes for the clash with Rangers, but the likes of Moreno, Sergio Asenjo and Samuel Chukwueze will also return for the clash at Camp Nou.

Chukwueze only made his league debut for Villarreal earlier this month, but he was on the scoresheet against Betis last time out, and the 19-year-old should start ahead of Carlos Bacca.

Pablo Fornals, who has been linked with Barcelona in recent days, will also start in midfield alongside Santi Cazorla. Meanwhile, Alfonso Pedraza should edge out Jaume Costa to start at left-back.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Arthur, Rakitic, Busquets; Coutinho, Messi, Dembele

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Gaspar, Ruiz, Funes Mori, Pedraza; Cazorla, Caseres, Trigueros, Fornals; Moreno, Chukwuenze

Head To Head

Barcelona thumped Villarreal 5-1 when the two teams met at Camp Nou on May 9, and also recorded a 2-0 win in the reverse match last season.

Villarreal have not actually beaten Barcelona in a league fixture since March 2008, although that 2-1 win did occur at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have enjoyed the recent meetings between the two teams though, managing 15 goals in their last four home La Liga fixtures with the Yellow Submarine.

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We say: Barcelona 2-0 Villarreal

Villarreal are too good to be sitting where they are in Spain's top flight, and they will gradually move up the table. Barcelona are due a La Liga win though, which we expect will occur this weekend.

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Ousmane Dembele in action for Barcelona on September 18, 2018
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