MX23RW : Wednesday, September 25 17:05:14| >> :600:211433:211433:
Sep 24, 2019 at 8pm UK at ​Camp Nou (Barcelona)
Attendance: 70,316
Griezmann (6'), Arthur (15')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Cazorla (44')

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

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

Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways in La Liga when they welcome Villarreal to Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

The Spanish champions suffered a 2-0 loss at Granada on Saturday night to stay in eighth position in the table - one spot and one point behind Villarreal, who have made a solid start to the 2019-20 campaign.


Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong in action with Granada's Yangel Herrera in La Liga on September 21, 2019© Reuters

Barca's loss at Granada on Saturday means that the Spanish champions have made their worst start to a league season for 25 years - Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo scored the goals for the home side, and it is difficult to argue against the final result as Ernesto Valverde's side were desperately poor on the night.

Not only have Barca taken just one point from their three away games this season, they have failed to win any of their past seven matches on their travels in all competitions, which will be a serious concern at this stage.

The Catalan giants were fortunate to pick up a point in their Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund last week as Marco Reus missed a penalty for the Bundesliga outfit, who had the better chances.

Lionel Messi has come off the bench in Barca's last two matches after recovering from a calf problem, and it seems likely that the Argentine will be thrust into action on Tuesday night. Ideally Valverde would take his time when it comes to re-introducing his star man, but the La Liga champions have struggled without him.

Barca's away form has been poor, but Valverde's side have won both of their La Liga games on home soil this season - beating Real Betis 5-2 on August 25 before recording the same scoreline against Valencia in their first match after the recent international break.

What's more, Barca are only four points off the top of the table as things stand with a number of teams struggling for consistency early on. Indeed, Atletico Madrid have won three, drawn one and lost one to collect 10 points, while Athletic Bilbao actually lead the way after five games of the 2019-20 campaign.

Real Madrid have had their problems this season, but Zinedine Zidane's side recorded a huge 1-0 win at Sevilla on Sunday night to move into second spot; it is a bunched up league at the moment, though, and Barca will still be fully confident in their chances of retaining the Spanish title.

It is an interesting period of the season for the Catalan giants as they face Villarreal and Getafe in their next two league fixtures before welcoming Inter Milan in the Champions League on October 2. Sevilla will then visit Camp Nou in La Liga on October 6 as the big matches continue to arrive.

Recent form: LWDWL
Recent form (all competitions): LWDWDL


Villarreal's Xavier Quintilla in action with Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez in La Liga on September 1, 2019© Reuters

Two wins, two draws and one defeat - that is how Villarreal have performed in their opening five league games of the season. A total of eight points has left them in seventh position in the table, while they are the joint-leading scorers in the division alongside Barca with 12 goals to show for their troubles.

The Yellow Submarine actually failed to win in their first three matches - drawing 4-4 with Granada on the opening weekend before losing to Levante. That said, they picked up a welcome point at home to Real Madrid on September 1 before two impressive victories over Leganes and Real Valladolid.

Indeed, Javi Calleja's side won 3-0 at Leganes before a 2-0 victory over Valladolid on Saturday, meaning that they will travel to Camp Nou full of confidence and looking to capitalise on Barca's obvious problems.

Last term was a huge disappointment for Villarreal as they finished the season in 14th, which actually represented their lowest position since 2011-12. Indeed, finishes of sixth, sixth, fourth, fifth and fifth preceded what was a poor 2018-19 season for a club of their calibre.

Only the three relegated clubs - Girona, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano - won fewer league games than Villarreal (10) last term, although there have been plenty of positive signs over the last few weeks.

The last clash between Villarreal and Barca actually finished 4-4 at the Estadio de la Ceramica earlier this season, but the Catalan giants have won each of the last eight La Liga meetings between the two sides at Camp Nou. Indeed, not since 2010 have the Yellow Submarine avoided defeat in this particular fixture.

Meanwhile, Villarreal's last away league victory over Barca came in 2008, which is an indication of the size of the task facing the visitors on Tuesday night. What's more, as touched on above, Barca's home form has not been the issue this season - scoring 10 in their two fixtures in front of their own supporters.

No player has scored more times in Spain's top flight this season than Villarreal's Gerard Moreno, though, and the 27-year-old will be fired-up to face Barca due to his connections with their Catalan rivals Espanyol.

Recent form: DLDWW

Team News

Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona on September 17, 2019© Reuters

Barca will again be without the services of first-choice left-back Jordi Alba due to a hamstring problem, while Samuel Umtiti is still on the sidelines with a foot injury.

Ousmane Dembele has made good progress in his recovery from a hamstring issue, and there are suggestions that the France international could make his return on Tuesday night.

Messi, as mentioned, is widely expected to start for the first time this season, while Arthur and Sergio Busquets should both return to the starting XI at Camp Nou.

Junior Firpo struggled on his full debut against Granada at the weekend, and Nelson Semedo could switch to left-back against Villarreal with Sergi Roberto dropping from midfield to right-back.

As for Villarreal, midfielder Bruno Soriano and defender Alberto Moreno remain on the sidelines through injury, but Calleja otherwise has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

It would not be a surprise to see the head coach shuffle his pack from the Valladolid clash at the weekend, with Karl Toko Ekambi and Samuel Chukwueze pushing for recalls.

Manu Trigueros and Mario Gaspar are also options for Calleja, but the likes of Moreno, Moi Gomez and Santi Cazorla are expected to keep their spots in the XI.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Semedo; Arthur, Busquets, De Jong; Messi, L Suarez, Griezmann

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Quintilla, Torres, Albiol, Pena; Iborra, Cazorla, Gomez; Chukwueze, Moreno, Ekambi

Head To Head

As mentioned above, the two teams played out a 4-4 draw in their last clash back in April, with Messi and Luis Suarez scoring late to see Barca claim a point on their travels.

Barca have won each of the last eight La Liga meetings between the two sides at Camp Nou, though, including a 2-0 victory in the corresponding game during the 2018-19 campaign.

Villarreal's last La Liga success at Camp Nou was back in March 2008 when former Denmark international Jon Dahl Tomasson scored the winner against a Barca side that included the likes of Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta and Samuel Eto'o.

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We say: Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal

There have been plenty of goals in the recent meetings between the two teams, making a low-scoring affair on Tuesday night even more unlikely. Neither side has struggled to find the back of the net this season, but we fancy Barca to have enough firepower to pick up a much-needed three points.

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Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona on September 17, 2019
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