MX23RW : Friday, September 24 17:27:52| >> :60:191:191:
Jul 5, 2020 at 9pm UK at Estadio de la Ceramica
Moreno (14')
Torres (18')
FT(HT: 1-3)
Torres (3' og.), Suarez (20'), Griezmann (45'), Fati (86')

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

Sports Mole previews Sunday's La Liga clash between Villarreal and Barcelona, including team news and predicted lineups.

Barcelona will be looking to keep their La Liga title hopes alive when they travel to an in-form Villarreal on Sunday night for what should be a fascinating affair.

The Spanish champions could be seven points off leaders Real Madrid by the time that they take to the field for this match, and Villarreal's recent form is likely to be of concern to the Catalan giants.

Match preview

Barcelona's Sergio Busquets in action with Villarreal's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa in September 2019© Reuters

Villarreal were in poor form before the lockdown period in Spain's top flight, suffering three straight defats between February 23 and March 8 to leave their top-four hopes in tatters.

The Yellow Submarine have been excellent since resuming their campaign on June 13, though, picking up five wins from their six matches and remaining unbeaten in the process to rise up the table.

Javi Calleja's side have beaten Valencia and Real Betis in their last two matches and currently sit fifth in Spain's top flight, three points behind fourth-placed Sevilla on the same number of matches.

Villarreal have not finished fourth in La Liga since 2015-16, while they ended last season in 14th.

El Submarino Amarillo have not actually beaten Barca in Spain's top flight since March 2008, but they held the Catalan giants to a 4-4 draw in the corresponding match during the 2018-19 campaign.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his 700th goal in their match against Atletico Madrid on June 30, 2020© Reuters

Barca, meanwhile, have drawn three of their last four in the league, including a 2-2 with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, where they twice gave up the lead to drop two more points.

Quique Setien's side are currently four points off leaders Real Madrid, but the gap could be seven by the time that they take to the field for this match as Zinedine Zidane's side are in action against Athletic Bilbao earlier in the day.

There are still more than enough points to play for in the final weeks, but Barca are facing having to win each of their final five games against Villarreal, Espanyol, Real Valladolid, Osasuna and Alaves to finish at the summit.

The team's preparations for this game have not been ideal, though, with suggestions that Lionel Messi is ready to leave the club at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Messi has again been in excellent form this season, but it would be fair to say that all is not well at Camp Nou and another poor result this weekend would only increase the speculation surrounding Setien's future.

Villarreal La Liga form: WWWDWW

Barcelona La Liga form: WWDWDD

Team News

Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong after the match on November 5, 2019© Reuters

Villarreal will again be without the services of central defender Ramiro Funes Mori through injury, while midfielder Vicente Iborra is also a doubt for the home side due to a muscular problem.

The Yellow Submarine are otherwise in good shape in terms of injuries, though, and Calleja has plenty of decisions to make when it comes to the final third of the field.

Indeed, Carlos Bacca, Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer are competing for the two spots up front, while Samuel Chukwueze is pushing to be involved in a wide position.

Iborra could start if he proves his fitness in the build-up to kickoff, while Mario Gaspar should return to the back four, having been left on the bench against Betis last time out.

As for Barca, Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong remain on the sidelines through injury, while Samuel Umtiti is also unavailable due to a knee problem.

Antoine Griezmann was surprisingly only used in the final minute against Atletico last time out, but the Frenchman could return to the starting XI on Sunday night.

Sergi Roberto is also in line to replace Nelson Semedo at right-back, having proved his fitness off the bench against Diego Simeone's side, but the bulk of the side that started against the capital outfit should feature here.

Indeed, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are again likely to join Sergio Busquets in the middle of the park as Arthur has already agreed to join Juventus during this summer's transfer window.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Gaspar, Albiol, Torres, Moreno; Cazorla, Trigueros, Anguissa, Chukwueze; Moreno, Bacca

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Griezmann, Suarez, Messi

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We say: Villarreal 1-2 Barcelona

It is a game that Barca simply have to win, and we fancy the champions to emerge victorious. Villarreal have been excellent since the lockdown period, but the Spanish champions must stay in touch with Real Madrid, who have a tough game themselves away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday afternoon.

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