Quique Setien will take his Barcelona side to the Estadio de la Ceramica this weekend knowing that it’ll take a miracle to knock Real Madrid off the top of the table.
It’s last chance saloon for Barcelona, as the Blaugrana find themselves four points behind arch rivals Real Madrid with just five games remaining – and Real with a 100% record since the restart of the league.
The home side still have ambitions of their own, as they sit in fifth place, just three points behind Sevilla with a superior head-to-head record.
The Yellow Submarine are set to be without former Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori, as the Argentine continues his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury. Vicente Iborra is also expected to miss out through injury.
World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti will miss out after suffering a knee injury, while fellow Frenchman Ousmane Dembele and Dutch international Frenkie de Jong are also sidelined.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Peña, Albiol, Torres, A Moreno; G Moreno, Cazorla, Anguissa, Gomez; Bacca, Alcacer.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Puig; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann.
The home side have been brilliant since the restart, picking up five wins in six, and keeping five clean sheets. This form has propelled them from eighth to fifth.
Leading scorer Gerard Moreno has been particularly impressive, scoring four times in as many games, including a brace in their 2-0 win against Real Betis.
On the other hand, Barcelona have not had the best luck lately. Three draws from their last four games has seen Setien’s side surrender top spot to Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid.
Star man Lionel Messi has recorded three goals and five assists in six games since the restart, including his 700th career goal. French forward Antoine Griezmann, however, has struggled, having netted only once in the league in 2020.
Here is how the two sides have fared in their last five games.
Real Betis 0-2 Villarreal (01/07)
Villarreal 2-0 Valencia (28/06)
Villarreal 2-2 Sevilla (22/06)
Granada 0-1 Villarreal (19/06)
Villarreal 1-0 Mallorca (16/06)
Barcelona 2-2 Atletico Madrid (30/06)
Celta Vigo 2-2 Barcelona (27/06)
Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (23/06)
Sevilla 0-0 Barcelona (19/06)
Barcelona 2-0 Leganes (16/06)
Barcelona have been dreadful on the road this season by their standards, having managed only six away wins from their 16 La Liga away games. Nonetheless, they have undeniable quality that can win any game.
Taking into account the recent form of both sides, and the general atmosphere at the club, it is difficult to see Barcelona’s fortunes turning around on Sunday. Expect another disappointing result for Messi and co.
Prediction: Villarreal 2-1 Barcelona