? FC Barcelona vs Villarreal CF: Match preview & line-ups
Competition/Round: 2019-20 La Liga, Matchday 6
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti, Moussa Wagué (out)
Villarreal Outs & Doubts: Bruno Soriano, Alberto Moreno, Ramiro Guerra (out)
Date/Time: Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 9pm CET (Barcelona)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea
In the last 180 minutes of action, Barca has just two shots on goal. That is something you hardly ever see with a team that boasts Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and others. The team just looks in a funk, and part of that may be due to Messi returning from injury and still not gelling with his teammates just yet.
The Yellow Submarine, on the other hand, have won their last two La Liga matches, but just as important, the team hasn't conceded in those games. That will greatly boost the team's confidence ahead of this match, but they know Barca can explode for goals at any moment. They'll play patient in attack and may opt to be more defensive at the beginning with Barca reeling.
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.
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.
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.
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 sideline 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.
For Villarreal, midfielder Bruno Soriano and defender Alberto Moreno remain on the sideline through injury, but Calleja 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 (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Firpo; Vidal, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suárez, Griezmann
Villarreal (4-3-3): Asenjo; Peña, Albiol, Torres, Quintilá; Anguissa, Iborra, Cazorla; Chukwueze, Gerard, Ontiveros
Prediction: The game is at home, so Barca get the three points, but the questions are still there!