Preview: Barcelona v Villarreal

La Liga champions Barcelona will be looking to keep their unbeaten record this season intact when they welcome Villarreal to the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

La Liga
9 May 2018
Gameweek 36
Kick-off: 20H00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: J. Sanchez
Assistants: D. Barbero, J. Gallego
Fourth official: S. Uson

Head-to-head summary:

TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS

Barcelona 39 22 9 8
Villarreal 39 8 9 22

Previous encounter:

Villarreal 0-2 Barcelona 10/12/17 (La Liga)

Barcelona goalscorers: L. Suarez (72′), L. Messi (83′)

Players to watch:

Lionel Messi leads the way in La Liga with goals (33) and assists (12), but Luis Suarez follows closely behind having scored 24 times and turning provider for his team-mates on 10 occasions. The Uruguayan striker is only the second player this season to reach double figures in both columns, after scoring in the 2-2 draw with Real Madrid and setting up Messi for the other goal.

Carlos Bacca is in a rich vein of form for the Yellow Submarine, having bagged a hat-trick in the recent 4-1 win over Celta Vigo. The Colombian striker has scored six goals in his last five league appearances and is the club’s top scorer this term with 15.

Team form and manager quotes:

Ernesto Valverde’s side have yet to lose in 35 league games, which saw them cruise to a 25th Spanish title.

Barca haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six matches, though, and had to battle back for 2-2 draws against Sevilla and Celta Vigo.

They also drew 2-2 with arch-rivals Real Madrid on Sunday having played the entire second half with just 10 men following the 45th-minute dismissal of Sergi Roberto.

Valverde expects the Yellow Submarine to give his team a real go in a bid to secure Europa League football, but he wants to get back on the winning trail after the Clasico stalemate.

“We are facing a team who are having a great season and they will be looking to book a place in Europe,” the Spaniard said in his pre-match press conference.

“We aren’t going to lose sight of our objective to win. We want to maintain our level of play. We have three games left to keep competing.”

The Castellon outfit are in good form having won their last three matches on the spin to cement their place in the top six.

They beat Leganes (2-1), Celta Vigo (4-1) and Valencia (1-0) after drawing 2-2 with Sevilla, which has seen Javier Calleja’s men make a late push for fifth place – currently occupied by Real Betis, who are two points ahead of them.

“The challenge is huge, but the motivation is too,” Calleja told reporters. “It’s an historic year for Barca. It is practically unrepeatable not to have lost in the league.

“I expect a very motivated Barca. Surely they want to finish the league without defeat and they play at home and want to give their fans a treat.

“Despite the difficulty, we are confident of winning and playing a great game at the Nou Camp. We must keep the concentration for 90 minutes and not make mistakes.”

Team news:

The hosts are without Roberto, who is suspended following his red card against Los Blancos, while Samuel Umtiti misses out with a knee injury.

Valverde has also dropped Denis Suarez and Aleix Vidal from his matchday squad.

The only absentee for the visitors is Antonio Rukavina, who serves a ban for an accumulation of yellow cards.

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