By 90Min
December 09, 2017
After a strong start to the season which has seen Barca top the table without a defeat, things seem to have gone stale following two straight draws. The Catalans make a tough trip to Villarreal on Sunday night, hoping to extend their five-point lead at the top of La Liga. 

Villarreal have recovered after a slow start to the season and will look to make ground on the top four by ending their visitors unbeaten run. Here's all you need to know before Sunday's clash:

Classic Encounter
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Barca's trip to El Magridal in April 2014 was memorable for numerous reasons. For one, it was the club's first game since the tragic death of former manager Tito Vilanova and of course, his former players wanted to mark the occasion with a huge victory that would help them keep up the pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid.

The hosts clearly hadn't read the script, flying into a 2-0 lead after 55 minutes thanks to goals from Cani and Manu Trigueros. There was to be a truly dramatic climax, however, as an own goal from future Arsenal defender Gabriel gave the visitors hope of a comeback. Prior to Mateo Musacchio levelling the game with a second Villarreal own goal, a home supporter threw a banana at Dani Alves in what was intended as a racist act, but the Brazilian responded by picking it up and eating it in a superb act of defiance, eventually taking the corner quickly after as he had the last laugh.

Barca were to steal a dramatic victory with seven minutes left, Lionel Messi (who else?) latched on to a Cesc Fabregas header and coolly slotted home to make it 3-2, giving Barca a vital three points in their bid for the title, a bid which eventually fell short on the final day. However, the true man of the moment, the late Vilanova, would have been very proud of his former players' character.


Team News

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Villarreal made a host of changes for their Europa League defeat in midweek having already qualified from their group. They will be without some key names, however, including Carlos Bacca, skipper Bruno and defender Ruben Semedo. Forwards Denis Cheryshev, Nicola Sansone and Samu Castillejo all make up the injury list as well.

As for Barcelona, they also made a host of changes for their European tie in the week. Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen remain their only first-choice central defenders, whilst Andres Iniesta is doubtful after missing the midweek game with a knock. The Catalans will be encouraged by Ousmane Dembele's return to training but it's unlikely the Frenchman will be rushed back so soon, meaning they might be an opportunity for under fire Gerard Deulofeu.

Potential Villarreal XI: Barbosa, Mario, Bonera, Alvaro, Marin, Hernandez Cascante, Trigueros, Rabaseda Antolin, Fornals, Soriano, Bakambu.


Potential Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Sergi, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Suarez, Messi.


Prediction

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Barcelona may be suffering from some injuries, but against such tough opposition, Villarreal's injury list is a lot more concerning. The Yellow Submarine has started the season very slow and come into the game on the back of two defeats. Quite simply, it's hard to see where a fairly injury-hit squad has the firepower to put down an impressive looking Barcelona team.

The home support will do their best to rally their team, but the Catalans unbeaten run will likely extend with a relatively comfortable win where goals could be aplenty.

Prediction: Villarreal 1 - 4 Barcelona

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Eagle (-2)
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