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La Liga resumes this weekend and with Real Madrid having a game in hand and playing Granada at home, it is vital the teams behind them do not drop points, if they want to stay in touch with the leaders. This will be easier said than done for Barcelona, who restart their La Liga campaign after the winter break, with a trip to Villarreal.
This match sees fourth playing second in La Liga and Villarreal fans will be relishing the visit of Barcelona, having recovered from a poor run of results in November. The Yellow Submarine lost two of their three La Liga games in November, including a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Deportivo Alaves. Many onlookers thought this was the start of a slump which would see Villarreal sink down the league table but they recovered superbly in December. The pick of the results was the comprehensive 3-0 home win over Atletico Madrid and the 3-1 victory last time out at Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona struggled on their return to competitive action in mid-week, losing 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey. Luis Enrique will need his players to be at 100% from the first whistle because they were slow to get going in Bilbao and despite creating more chances as the game developed, could not take them. The pressure is on Enrique, who will have seen both Real Madrid and Sevilla play before this game kicks off and if both teams win, Barcelona will need to follow suit.
Villarreal’s home record in La Liga is excellent and they recovered well from the defeat to Alaves, with the 3-0 victory over Atletico. The defeat to Alaves was Villarreal’s first home loss this season and they had won five and drawn one prior to that match. The key to Fran Escriba’s success at El Madrigal this season has been the perfect blend between scoring goals and defending well. Not only have Villarreal scored 17 goals in eight games, at an average of 2.1 per game, they have also conceded just 5 goals, at an average of 0.62 per game, striking up an excellent balance between attack and defence.
Barcelona have been equally impressive on the road, losing just one game this season and looking fantastic in-front of goal. The Catalan’s have netted 23 goals in eight away La Liga games, at a rate of 2.8 per game. Defensively, they have not been as a good as Villarreal and have conceded 9 goals on the road, at an average of 1.12 per game.
Barcelona are undefeated against Villarreal in their last sixteen meetings in all competitions but that does not mean they are going to win this game. Both teams have been scoring goals home and away respectively but Villarreal have the advantage defensively. Home advantage makes a big difference in this game and Villarreal could easily take a point, with both teams scoring and put a dent in Barcelona’s title ambitions.